SBJ Power Up: Super Sunday is approaching

By David Rumsey

February 10th

The NFL season will finally reach its climax on Sunday when the Eagles and Chiefs go head-to-head in Super Bowl LVII. Before the game, let’s take another look at all of the technology that powers the game and the efforts behind it.

Here’s what’s on tap:

Sportradar’s mind-blowing stats Tech activations surrounding the big game PGA Tour activation in VR from Phoenix College golf facilities see Tech upgrades NBA invests in Gym Class VR Verizon brings in top sports marketers

SBJ’s Joe Lemire today has an interesting profile of a key member of the Sportradar team that provides the impressive in-game stats that are often compiled using Radar360, the company’s analytics tool.

When Super Bowl LVII begins Sunday, Zach Robinow will be stationed in one of Fox Sports’ production trucks outside of State Farm Stadium. With a headset on and a direct line to the broadcast booth, Sportradar’s Senior Research Analyst sits in front of eight monitors showing the game and graphics as they are designed and sold to the producer for on-air transmission.

Impressive stats during the regular season included the Cowboys’ 195-0 record when they led by at least 14 points in the fourth quarter before losing to the Packers and the Bills winning 52 straight while they were at home led by at least 14 points before the Vikings made an epic comeback in November.

Look for more of the same when the game goes out on Sunday. “Basically, every Super Bowl record you can think of is within his grasp,” said Robinow. “It’s all about finding it.”

Robinow’s top priority is 100% accuracy, but he’s also learning to tailor his notes to each broadcaster’s preferences. Greg Olsen, in particular, is an accomplished analyst who is interested in hearing the numbers, even if he doesn’t share them with the viewing audience. “I’ll listen to what he’s saying, dig deeper into what he’s saying, and see if I can find statistical trends and facts that support those findings,” said Robinow. “And that might not do graphics, but he could address it verbally.”

Keep an eye out for Lemire’s full play at SBJ Tech today.

It’s been a busy week leading up to Super Bowl LVII. Here’s everything else SBJ Tech has covered around the game:

The PGA Tour is introducing a new virtual reality gaming challenge at the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week that will insert live golf performances from the tournament into Golf+ so users can attempt to replicate those footage in Meta Quest headsets, reports my colleague Andrew Cohen.

Golf+, which signed a five-year deal with the PGA Tour in December, calls the experience “Beat The Pro” and leverages ball-tracking data from the Tour’s ShotLink radar and course camera system. The game appears to be the first of its kind in pro sports to stream the competition in near real-time to VR headsets for fans to compete at home.

The par 3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, the rowdiest hole in golf that often results in loud cheers, boos and beer showers from fans, has been recreated in Golf+ so fans can use their Quest controllers to physically swing and you watch virtual golf ball try to land near the hole. The VR game is surrounded by a digital screen showing broadcast clips from PGA Tour Live of actual player shots from the 16th hole so fans can try to hit closer to the pin than the pros. Click here for some of yesterday’s promotions.

Users are randomly assigned to the golfer to virtually hit against

Improved technology offerings are a key element of the increasing number of colleges pouring money into their golf programs and providing improved training facilities for student athletes – a topic my colleague Wes Sanderson has delved into for SBJ.

Take the Illinois men’s golf team, for example, who have had an impressive string of appearances at the NCAA National since opening an indoor facility with TrackMan Launch Monitors, a Sam PuttLab, and a virtual green with an attached PuttView that allows for better work Championships completed winter months.

Stanford, on the other hand, has a TrackMan series at its designated varsity practice center that the golf team can access whenever they want. “A lot of places have good facilities that they have access to, but not many have space that they really own,” said Conrad Ray, Stanford director of men’s golf.

Speaking to various sources, however, Sanderson reports that trainers feel they want to balance the vast amount of existing technology with traditional instruction.

According to SBJ’s Andrew Cohen, the NBA is investing in Gym Class VR and acquiring an equity interest in the company through its new multi-year licensing deal featuring the virtual reality basketball game.

Branded NBA team courts of all 30 teams will be added to the Gym Class, as well as team-branded digital apparel and accessories that allow users to outfit their in-game avatars with NBA gear and play with team-branded basketballs.

IRL Studios, the Austin-based developer of Gym Class, has secured nearly $9 million in funding.

Gym Class sells an in-game NBA bundle starting at $19.99 and includes a virtual replica of an NBA team’s court, a team-branded basketball, and two sets of team-branded clothing such as shoes, socks, shorts, t-shirts and headbands and bracelets – with the league and IRL Studios, who have a revenue sharing agreement.

Tempus Ex Machina, whose technology infrastructure efficiently enables sports data and video products, is partnering with social media creation platform Slate to produce new content. If you haven’t already, be sure to read my colleague Joe Lemire’s two-part report on Tempus Ex, which looks at the NFL deal and the company’s governance structure. Full Swing executive producer Chad Mumm spoke to SBJ Tech about Netflix’s decision to continue following golfers on the LIV side for the streamer’s upcoming documentaries, which will be produced in partnership with the PGA Tour. “People will be surprised at how much access we had to players processing it in real time,” said Mumm.

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Photo Credit: PGA Tour/Golf+ (VR Golf)