Is this how we’ll watch the next World Cup? | Science & Tech News

How were you watching the World Cup?

In the sitting room? At your local? Because of the initial times i Qatarmaybe you had some in the office.

And with the large number of games that are played every day, you’ve probably got quite a few of them on your phone; watching live or catching highlights while in motion; Twitter or WhatsApp always just swipe away, so you can scream into the void about where you think Gareth Southgate‘ getting lost.

There weren’t that many tournaments back then, the thought of being able to watch matches in the palm of your hand, wherever you are, was an unimaginable dream. But the World Cupwith its quadrennial nature and universal appeal, it has always been a great barometer of changes in technology and consumption habits.

From the first World Cup in color in 1970, when Football– led Brazil wowed the world in Mexico; to Germany in 2006 ushering us into the pin-sharp HD generation; and now the reality of today that the country’s version of the tournament broadcast rights won in China TikTok; we have certainly come a long way.

Pele opens the scoring in the 1970 World Cup final
Images:
Pele opens the scoring in the 1970 World Cup final

“I’m old enough to remember seeing football in black and white,” says Peter Moore, speaking from a sun-drenched California that can’t be imagined in any other color.

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It is from here that the former EA Sports and Liverpool FC chief executive works on what he believes will be the next chapter in World Cup broadcasting history.

“Second goal for Japan,” he says of Germany’s shock win in their Group E opener.

“The goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, one of the best of the last decade, was at fault. I would have loved to have been able to drop the camera into the penalty area as he was shooting to see what he had to do just to see what went wrong.”

Soccer - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group E - Germany v Japan - Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - November 23, 2022 Japan's Takuma Asano scores his second goal past Manuel Neuer REUTERS/Matthew Children
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Japan’s Takuma Asano beats Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from an unlikely angle

Germany’s number one will be relieved that the solution is not to strap a GoPro to his chest. Japanese match winner Takuma Asano was not expected to succeed either smart glasses like some dystopian Edgar Davids.

Rather, the solution goes into the history of Mr. Moore at EA, the gaming giant behind massive sports titles including Madden NFL, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, and – most famously of all – FIFA.

The impossible camera angle

“The impossible camera angles you see in a video game, you couldn’t in real life,” says Mr. Moore.

“And there is a whole generation that has given up on having the ruler in their hands, looking at these angles.”

In fact, for over 20 years, sports video games have allowed players to stop the action and fly a virtual camera across the field with a precision and fluidity that real broadcasters could only dream of.

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And as the visuals become more and more realistic, the opportunity to blur the line between the digital and the physical becomes more appealing.

The FIFA series allows the players to zoom into the action.  Pic: Electronic Arts
Images:
The FIFA series allows the players to zoom into the action. Pic: Electronic Arts

Enter Unity, a video game software company best known for its engine of the same name, which it allows other developers to power their titles.

But just as fellow game studio Epic has seen its Unreal Engine used beyond games, notably to generate backgrounds for the Star Wars show The Mandalorian, Unity is diversifying its portfolio.

How does the technology work?

Mr. Moore heads Unity’s live sports and entertainment division, and offered a whistle-stop tour of how the company’s technology has already been applied to the mixed martial arts UFC.

The exhibit shows two fighters, who were subjected to “volume capture” on a Los Angeles sound stage. The bout is captured by multiple cameras around them, and the data is then transformed into “voxels” – 3D pixels that, once processed by a powerful computer program, can be spaced out as photorealistic models.

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The result is that the fighters look as you’d expect in real footage, rendered in detail and with the ultimate viewer able to dive at any angle.

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You are basically a cameraman yourself.

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“Video games come to life,” says Mr. Moore, in a nod to his past, as he swipes through the fight on an iPad.

“It requires a lot of computing power and bandwidth, but like any piece of technology I’ve been involved with, it evolves.”

The goal is that the capture equipment used on the sound stages will eventually transfer into live venues.

Mr Moore claims it will be “ubiquitous and accessible to anyone with a touchscreen device” in a few years’ time, meaning it could be ready for England’s miraculous 2026 World Cup win.

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Fans may scoff at the ambition, especially those who put down a four-figure sum on 3D television a decade ago, which promised to be the future of broadcasting.

And Unity also sees technology as part of the metaverse we’ve heard so much about, which for some it is. nothing more than a big technological delusion cooked up in Silicon Valley.

But when Mr. Moore says it will be accessible to anyone, he really means anyone.

If he was still at his friend Liverpool, who he left in 2020 after a three-year spell that included the club’s first Premier League title, he would have presented it to manager Jurgen Klopp as a means of analysis during the games.

And it has become a bit of a buzzword among coaches, fans, and commentators alike, but Mr Moore is convinced the technology could even change the way we think about VAR.

It wouldn’t matter if England won the World Cup, it would really be a miracle.

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