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Intel Sports Exec Rich Green Talks Innovation On and Off the Field

From data mining to key acquisitions, Intel at the forefront of the sports tech movement. Rich Green, Director of Venture and Market Development at Intel Sports, is helping to lead the charge. Green spoke with Direct Interface Founder Kevin Jordan to share how the company is taking sports tech to the next level.

DIRECT INTERFACE: Describe your business unit and role therein?

Director, Ventures and Market Development at Intel Sports. My role involves building, advancing and executing new market development strategies when it comes to sports, primarily focusing on the fan experience, and there is some athlete involvement as well. It’s an exciting opportunity for us within Intel Sports, because at the end of the day, our job is to help fans and help athletes, and we think if we can do that correctly, we can create new experiences, new engagements, new value for the leagues, for rights’ holders, for fans, and for athletes. It’s a great opportunity, it’s a unique opportunity that Intel is very well positioned to do.

Intel is a unique brand that is sitting in a very interesting position in the whole sport’s industry ecosystem. You are catering to the fan, the coach and the athletes. From your perspective, what is Intel’s strategy around those three pillars?

Great question. Where the industry is at is really at the precipice for technology innovation. We’ve seen this in other industries, where the amount of data, the influx of data, is starting to change and evolve this industry, and sports is the next industry that is ripe for this kind of technology advancement and technology revolution. There is an increased interest and demand for immersive experiences from a fan’s perspective and from a league perspective, and technology is going to play a critical role in delivering that evolution within sports.

The way that I look at it, and the way that we look at it, is the digitization of sports, and how the data becomes the oil to really make this industry go to the next level. We’re seeing that from a fan perspective as they want to get closer to their favorite player, they want to get closer to their favorite team. They want to experience things that they haven’t done before. An example is if I am watching a quarterback, what is it that the quarterback saw when they threw that touchdown? What is it that the d-back saw when he made that interception? Now, through the digitization of sports and video content, we can provide that experience back to fans.

When you think about it from a coach and player’s perspective, all of this data that players are collecting is now becoming another source to enhance that competitive advantage to improve their performance on the field, on the pitch, on the court, and that is part and parcel going to drive more fan engagement as well, because they are going to be able to do things at a higher level. From a player and a coach perspective, it’s really about how do you make the data useful? Things that players are wearing on their wrists, or heart monitors, or even camera imagery, how can that be made useful to increase the player’s strength, increase the player’s recovery, increase the player’s performance on the field? The industry is just at the beginning of how this data can be used. And technology, I think, can take it to the next level to make it more meaningful for all of those constituents; for the fans, for the athletes, and for the coaches.

What have you observed as some of the key challenges surrounding each of these three segments you outlined? What is it that Intel is doing to tackle those challenges?

Some of the key challenges with experiences and fan engagement are: how do you capture that content and create an amazing experience from it? If you think about it from the fan perspective, there is so much that is required to capture that video content. It is very data heavy. If you think about the amount of data that is captured on a cell phone, you use about five gigs in a month if you are a heavy user. A football game creates about eighty-five terabytes of data. One of the challenges is how do you capture all that data? How do you process all that data, and make it meaningful and useful? That’s one of the key challenges. There is a lot of capital-intensive nature to be able to capture that information.

Secondly, how do you make the information personable? How do you make it relevant to the audience so that you are not just inundating them with more and more footage, but because people are looking for things that they want to see, that they want to control?

Those are a couple of challenges that we see out there from a fan perspective, and again, as I mentioned before, from a player’s perspective, how do you make that information meaningful? It’s easy to see what the data shows or what your heart rate is, but how do you start to make that more meaningful for an athlete or for a coach? Those are some of the unique challenges that are out there.

What we are doing at Intel, and why we’re so excited about this space and feel like we’re uniquely positioned to take it to the next level and evolve the sports industry, we’re building all of this technology on a base of processing power that is some of the best processing power that is in the world, what Intel was built on. Now we have gone out and we have made unique acquisitions for our VR component, which was originally VOKE VR, which is now Intel True VR. It’s a way to provide content in an immersive setting that allows people to control and view what they want to view. For instance, for those that are not able to go to the NCAA tournament, we provide that feeling of being right there, in the stadium, being able to look around and see whatever that individual wanted to see as if they were in the stadium.

Another example is from our acquisition of our Intel 360, a replay technology, which we acquired recently. That allows fans to engage in a way that gives them a feel of being the player. The way we did that was, from our 360 cameras, having 38 cameras around the stadium, we basically created a volumetric pixilation of the arena, of the stadium. It’s almost like having virtual cameras that allow you to see every angle, every position you wanted to see, without actually having those cameras having to be in that place.

That is how we are dealing with some of those challenges of creating that content, capturing that content, delivering that content, in a way that is meaningful. We are only at the beginning, and it’s only going to get better and better as we continue to use that talent and that processing power that Intel can provide.

 

What are some emerging digital-value revenue models?

Three things… there are a myriad of different things that are out there. The three that really have risen to the top are: One, virtual reality. It is a medium that is continuing to grow. It is one that allows, from our perspective, people to experience the thrill, the excitement, the feel of being in an event even if you cannot be there. If you think about sports, and you think about how many fans there are all around the world. Virtual reality is now allowing fans to experience being at their favorite location without having to leave the comfort of their home.

I think that is going to continue to evolve as the option of virtual reality headsets or mobile devices that provide virtual reality will continue to grow, and that is a space Intel is very well positioned in to capture that content and deliver that experience.

Second, I would say, is overall immersive experiences. We’ve done a lot with our 360 cameras to create these immersive experiences, to give the fans a view of the sport in a way that they had not been able to look at it before. All of this content with people wanting to look at different aspects of the game, it’s very hard to do just one aspect that everybody that is a fan of sports wants to see.

Now if you can look at different views using the 360 cameras, now you can look at a different angle a different way. That is just going to continue to draw in fans more closely, and I think broadcasters are going to get more excited because people are going to want to engage with content. That gives more value to the broadcasters of that support. I think that is the next evolution, that immersion.

The third one that I am really excited about is the personalization. I spoke to it a little bit earlier in terms of wanting to watch the receiver and the d-back, but now with personalization and the capture of all this video content, fans can watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it. I may not be able to watch every game, but I might want a highlight of my favorite player. Give me all the runs that Adrian Peterson had when he broke through at least two tackles.

We are starting to get to a point where now people can control what they want to see. They have their favorite clips of their favorite teams, or their favorite players, or their favorite sport when and where they want it. That is really the evolution of all of this different content that is coming from VR, coming from 360 cameras, coming from different types of ability to capture content. Now it is how do you make that content useful? I see the same thing with data and athletes. How do you make all of this universe of data bite sized and useful for the right audience? We are seeing that with the fans. These are trends that we think are going to continue to increase and grow.