Exploring the Future of Footy with Telstra 5G
Posted on August 29, 2019
7 min read
Ahead of this year’s footy finals season, we’ve been speaking to AFL players, clubs, and fans to see how they imagine our 5G technology changing the future of the game. Thousands of fans from all around the country came forward with their ideas – everything from artificial intelligence for umpires to augmented reality goggles for players.
We already know that 5G is ushering in a new era of connectivity – it’s not just smartphones and tablets anymore, but thousands of ‘things’ using the latest technology to transmit data.
Here are 10 of the most popular and our own favourite suggestions that we’ve received.
1. Goal line tech
The most popular suggestion we received – by far – was 5G-enhanced goal line technology. You’ve dreamed up a variety of different approaches to fixing the drama of the goal line, from posts that light up if touched by the ball, goal posts using lasers and reflectors, or the application of ultra high definition, high-speed cameras for umpires to review. Debbleswat told us it would be “Hawkeye for footy – just like tennis”.
Crazier still is the fact that we’ve already been testing this out. We recently teamed up with the Sydney Swans to test some high definition and high frame rate goal line cameras – at 16K resolution and 1000 frames per second, that’s a lot of data. A lot of this technology already exists, but 5G will allow us to get those images to the people who see them quicker than ever – and so minimise disruption to the game.
2. A broadcast revolution
More of the most popular suggestions centred around taking the sports broadcasting media experience to the next level – like multi-camera streams where fans at the games broadcast from their own phones, giving fans at home the same stadium experience. Jackbrophyy said, “Imagine having multiple cameras set up around the ground, and you can change camera angle from your tablet live”.
This is definitely something that 5G could enable in the future. Samsung has already successfully demonstrated this technology earlier in the year, and we’ve run a similar test with the West Coast Eagles.
3. Snicko and hotspot
Another fan favourite, those cricket-inspired ‘snicko’ and hotspot technologies – which let referees examine video using thermal imaging to check for touches and touch behinds – could use 5G technology to give this feedback to umpires nearly instantly.
4. A 360-degree experience
Plenty of fans put forward their ideas for a 360-degree video experience, designed to replicate the in-your-seat stadium feeling, through virtual reality. There were also suggestions – a little more wild – to turn these 360-degree images into holograms for your kitchen table!
In reality, virtual reality and 360-degree video broadcasts both benefit hugely from the low latency of 5G – the ‘lag’ between an action happening and it being reproduced on video – as well as 5G’s high capacity for data-heavy broadcasts. While those holograms might still be a little way off, we recently created some training videos for Port Adelaide using virtual reality, so a new dimension of footy broadcasts is not that far-fetched.
5. A ‘smart Sherrin’
_a_bay suggested “chips/sensors in the ball so you can determine whether the boot was the last thing to make contact” – and they were not alone. There were several suggestions for a smart ball that could alert umpires to when it has gone out of play, could provide stats for fans – or could even give advice to players.
We already have smart refrigerators and smart bulbs, so surely a smart Sherrin can’t be far off. Part of what 5G enables is the ‘internet of things’ where thousands of devices are interconnected and communicating, so it’s easy to imagine a future of footy where even more data is produced.
6. Smart player tracking
_mister_b_910_ was among a number of fans who were suggesting sensors or biometric clothing that continually monitor players’ vital signs, fluid levels and general wellbeing. Saints.afl said, “I’d love to see sensors on the player’s main muscles to prevent injuries, and to help teams with knowing who can stay out there the longest…”
Tracking player data is something that we can do right now. Look up the Telstra Tracker online and you can see some of the data that players, clubs and fans already have access to. What 5G means is that those trackers will have the potential to communicate even more data in even more detail – and that can absolutely contribute towards the game’s already excellent approach to player welfare.
7. Camera in your footy
A very popular, if somewhat surprising, choice from our fan suggestions is a camera mounted inside the footy. Michael.smithy15 wanted a different perspective “live from the Sherrin!”, annie.ireland thought that a camera in the ball would help “determine if a free kick or a goal should be paid”, and tom-rendle wanted it “so every time it’s kicked, we have the opportunity to see it clunked by big Ben King.” We can’t argue with that!
Part of the appeal of 5G is its big jump in capacity, meaning more devices can be connected simultaneously and transmitting large quantities of data. And that means that along with all the other experiences we’ve imagined, a footy’s-eye view of the game would definitely be possible.
8. AI-powered umpires
Umpires made it to number eight on our list, with suggestions such as: “AI umpires” (nicholasalexanderfrancis), and virtual umpiring to be carried out by a team behind the scenes using an increased amount of camera angles (sam.raff) – a further development of the TV umpires we’re already used to in other sports.
Cgibbs even told us that “it would love to see the umpires as drones instead of people as people get in the way of the play, would be cool in ball-ups to see them swoop in, pick up the ball, and drop it into play so every ruck contest was fair.” (Cgibb)
9. Instant stats on your favourite players
It seems like there are a lot of fantasy football fans out there with ideas for the future because late on our list of top ten suggestions was one fan’s idea of instant stats appearing through our sporting apps, or a “stat bar floating at the top of their head” during the broadcast. (maxy_harris)
Well, Telstra Tracker already has the data – we just need to find an AR app to show it off. 5G will help with that, so… watch this space!
10. Player-coach communication
Rounding out our top ten, Max_Cowburn suggested that we make earpieces for the players, so coaches can get their messages across faster and clearer than a runner. He was not alone as ear-pieces, augmented reality goggles and contact lenses, as well as other player-worn, tech rounds out our most popular top ten.
The influence of technology on our sport has come a long way in the last ten years – from the way teams train to the way fans engage with the sport – and we are constantly looking to the future. So while you probably won’t see drone delivered pies at your ground next matchday, some of the future of footy ideas we’ve dreamed up together may not be all that far away.
These ideas for the future of footy are just a bit of fun for now, but there is a very real technological innovation that exists behind these ideas. 5G has the potential to revolutionise many aspects of our day-to-day lives, and footy is no exception.
We are already partnered with a host of different companies and organisations to look at how 5G can contribute to areas like player welfare, your own in-stadium experience as a fan, and all new broadcast techniques to bring you more footy every minute.