PHYGITAL-Microsoft and NBA thinning the line between physical and digital

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

Author: Karan Sharma

Recently NBA and Microsoft signed a deal to make the NBA fans closer to the game in this inevitable situation. Microsoft signed a multiyear deal with NBA to become their official A.I, cloud provider for the league, we could also see NBA using Microsoft azure platform to broadcast live, With the use of Microsoft team, the new together mode to place the basketball fans in the courtside in a virtual experience during the game. The together mode uses A.I to segment the face and shoulders and places it together with other people. NBA is using it to combined with a 17 foot tall LED screen that will be placed all around the arena in such a way that it can include around 300 fans sitting side by side just like they would be physically sitting. Fans will be able to watch live feed and also cheer, with this energy of the fans, the players can be encouraged and be more engrossed in the game. To make the experiences even more real the camera placements of the court and the fan stand are being tweaked, broadcasters like ESPN are repositioning cameras to give new angles for the fans and also the microphones around the court will capture all the sounds from sneakers squeaking to ball bouncing that we are used to hearing.

The NBA suspended its season on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic as live sports goes on pause amid the outbreak and social distancing measures. The partnership with Microsoft could provide more value as the league looks for ways keep fans engaged when they can’t attend games. This not the first deal that Microsoft is making with any sports, in 2013 Microsoft signed a deal with NFL and last month only they extended. NFL players and coaches will continue using Microsoft Surface tablets on the sidelines during games; teams and NFL staff will also use Microsoft’s Teams collaboration tool. This might just be the starting of one of the multiyear strategic alliance and we could see more of such deals with others sports by other digital giants as well.


The selection of Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, is a blow to rivals Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google in the race for cloud-computing market share. Amazon Web Services leads the market for internet-based computing and storage, with Microsoft Azure placing No. 2. Executives at both organizations describe this effort as akin to building a new media platform for NBA fans, letting the league personalize video content, make it easier to search its archives and integrate existing NBA products and services, including the e-commerce site. When the system detects a person’s interest in, say, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, because they look at James’s highlights from a game, archives or buy his jersey, AI tailors content for them. That extends to personalized games on an app or website, during which the algorithm shows the fan more shots of James playing during a game, as well as his stats.


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