The National Basketball Association (NBA) uses Microsoft Teams' new Together mode to give basketball fans a virtual experience while playing live. Microsoft just launched Team Together mode earlier this month. With AI, the face and shoulders are segmented and placed together with other people in a virtual room.
The NBA uses this new Microsoft Teams mode in combination with 17-foot LED screens that wrap around basketball arenas to put fans back next to the players. The fans can react in real time and the players can see and hear these reactions. More than 300 fans will use these virtual stands to use Together mode to sit virtually side by side in Microsoft teams. Fans can see a live feed of the game side by side within the teams.
"This new experience – the first to go live due to the NBA / Microsoft partnership – gives participating fans the feeling of sitting next to each other in a live game without leaving the comfort and safety of their home," explains Jared Spataro . Head of Microsoft 365. “Meanwhile, players will experience their energy and support as they dribble across the square and see the fans' real-time response. And viewers who adjust to the game from home will feel the energy of the audience and see the virtual stands full of fans. "
The fans will sit together in a virtual experience.
There is obviously a lot of potential for abuse if fans suddenly become villains during the sessions. Fortunately, the NBA has members who take part in the calls and removes any participants who behave inappropriately or interfere with the experience.
The transmitters ESPN and Turner Sports are repositioning the cameras to offer new perspectives for fans watching at home. Microphones around the square record the sneaker squeaking noises and ball jumps that we have heard so far. In addition to the experience of Microsoft Teams, fans can also cheer virtually with the NBA app. These virtual cheers are shown on games with animations on video boards.
The NBA's collaboration with Microsoft is part of a strategic alliance that the couple signed earlier this year. Microsoft signed a multi-year contract with the NBA to become the league's official provider of AI, cloud, and laptop. This is the first great example of the deal, and we'll also see the NBA use Microsoft's Azure platform to broadcast live and on-demand basketball games with personalized content.
The NBA season is expected to continue on July 30 after being interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic in March. This innovative use of Microsoft teams is part of a number of ways that different sports around the world try to experience virtual fans. Fox Sports also brings "virtual fans" to its Major League Baseball shows on Saturday, replacing empty seats with CGI fans and false audience sounds.
Update, July 24, 4:10 p.m. ET: Updated article with additional details about team meetings.