How Unity aims to give sports fans video game-like superpowers

Unity is looking to change the world of sports with volumetric capture and real-time 3D. First up: UFC fights.

Gif of a UFC fight from one fighter’s point of view

Unity's 3D capture of UFC fights allows for otherwise impossible camera angles.

Image: Unity

Imagine watching a UFC fight from the point of view of one of the fighters. Now imagine being able to pause that fight, switch camera angles and closely analyze a fighter's stance. Rotate the fighters to find another camera angle with the perfect vantage point, unpause, and watch the opposing fighter tap out while zooming in on his face.

What sounds like a video game is actually part of a demo that Unity executive Peter Moore is set to share with a couple hundred European sports executives at an industry event in London this week. Moore joined the game engine maker as its first SVP and GM of live sports and entertainment in January, and he now aims to bring the kind of real-time technology that's rapidly changing how Hollywood is making movies and TV shows to the world of live sports. This is part of a project the company calls Metacast.

"Sports fans love to analyze every goal score, touchdown, punch thrown," Moore recently told Protocol. "[They] love to micro-analyze every movement." By capturing sporting events in 3D, Unity promises to give fans superpowers, allowing them to become the director of their own sportscast.

"This new technology will revolutionize the way people consume sports, and Peter is the perfect person to lead this new division at Unity," said Unity CEO John Riccitiello.

To kick off its ambitious expansion into the world of sports, Unity has partnered with the UFC on research and development. As part of that partnership, Unity recently had two fighters spar off on a volumetric capture stage equipped with over 100 cameras for the demo that Moore is set to unveil this week.

As a next step, the game engine company is looking to build its own Octagon fight ring, matching UFC specs, to experiment with camera placements. The ultimate goal is to incorporate the cameras into the Octagon in a way that it could be rolled out in the field, ready to capture fights in 3D without obstructing the audience or endangering the fighters. "It's trial and error," Moore said. "It's getting the calibration right."

The UFC represents an interesting launch partner for Unity: Not only are its fans young, tech-savvy and willing to spend real dollars on premium content, but the fights themselves are also happening in a controlled environment, which makes the capture process a lot easier.

However, Unity's sports ambitions go far beyond two-person sparring. Moore's demo also includes 3D footage of a rugby game, complete with the ability to dynamically add data layers and zoom in on individual players.

Those features aren't just great for super fans, but could also benefit professionals, said Moore, who served as the CEO of Liverpool FC for three years before joining Unity. "I got to see the inside workings of the world's biggest football club, and I saw it's a club that's analytically driven, that believes in sports science, believes in data," he said.

Giving coaches access to 3D capture data could allow them to much more closely look at individual players. "It's an incredible tool to do [an] analysis of why certain players simply don't get hurt and can play 50 games in a season, and some players get hurt five or six times," he said. Eventually, that technology could also trickle down to schools and amateur sports, giving basketball coaches a way to capture and mark up training games, thanks to Lidar-equipped mobile devices capable of capturing 3D footage.

How real-time 3D footage is going to be distributed still remains to be seen. In the short term, this kind of footage will most likely power post-game analysis for TV pundits. But in the long run, it's also possible that fans will have direct access to the footage, allowing them to rewatch key scenes and personalize their own sportscasts. "In the future, every sporting game will be broadcast three-dimensionally," Moore predicted.

Ultimately, this could also help make sports more appealing to younger viewers who grew up with esports and 6-second GIFs. Moore even likened it to other tectonic shifts in broadcast history. "I'm old enough to remember black-and-white television, and color television blew my mind. I could see things in a different way," he said. "Some of the technologies since then have been interesting, but nothing this revolutionary."

Protocol | Workplace

The whiteboard wars: Miro and Figma want to make meetings better

Miro and Figma separately launched features on Tuesday aimed at improving collaboration on their platforms.

Whiteboard rivals Miro and Figma each released collaboration improvements.

Logos: Figma and Miro

We expect a lot from our productivity tools these days. You can't just stroll over to your team members' desks and show them what you're working on anymore. Most of those interactions need to happen online, and it's even better if the work and the communication can happen in one place. Miro and Figma — competitors in the collaborative whiteboard space — understand how critical remote collaboration is, and are both working to up their meeting game.

This week, both platforms announced features aimed at improving the collaboration experience, each vying to be the home base for teams to work and hang out together. Figma announced updates to its multiplayer whiteboard FigJam, and Miro announced a new set of tools that it's calling Miro Smart Meetings. Figma's goal is to make FigJam more customizable and accessible for everyone; Miro wants to be the best place for content-centered, professional meetings. They both want to be the go-to hub for teams looking to get stuff done.

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

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Kate Silver

Kate Silver is an award-winning reporter and editor with 15-plus years of journalism experience. Based in Chicago, she specializes in feature and business reporting. Kate's reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic's CityLab, Atlas Obscura, The Telegraph and many other outlets.

Protocol | Workplace

Hybrid work is here to stay. Here’s how to do it better.

We've recovered from the COVID-19 digital collaboration whiplash. Now we must build a more intentional model for hybrid work.

This is a call to managers to understand the mundane or unwanted projects their employees face, and what work excites them.

Photo: Adobe

Ashley Still is Adobe's Senior Vice President of Digital Media – Marketing, Strategy & Global Partnerships.

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As Senior Vice President, Digital Media – Marketing, Strategy & Global Partnerships, Ashley Still leads product marketing and business development for Adobe's flagship Creative Cloud and Document Cloud offerings. This includes iconic software brands such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat. Her expanded remit now includes Adobe's strategic partnership work with technology companies globally, including Apple, Microsoft and Google; and driving Adobe's fast-growing mobile app business. Her team is also responsible for the demand generation marketing campaigns that makes Adobe the market-leader, across creative and document productivity segments. Previously she was Vice President and General Manager, Adobe Creative Cloud for Enterprise. Here her team delivered an integrated content creation, collaboration and publishing solution that securely enables brands to create exceptional design and content. Prior to this, Ashley was Senior Director of Product & Marketing for Adobe Primetime, an Internet television platform used by Comcast, Turner, NBC Sports and other global media companies to deliver TV content and dynamic advertising to any Internet device. Under Ashley's leadership, Adobe Primetime won an Emmy Award for the Adobe Pass TV-Everywhere service. Ashley joined Adobe in 2004 following her internship with the company and held several product management positions for Adobe Photoshop. Still earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and her Masters degree from Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Protocol | Workplace

Meet the productivity app influencers

Within the realm of productivity influencing, there is a somewhat surprising sect: Creators who center their content around a specific productivity app.

People are making content and building courses based off of their favorite productivity apps.

Photos: Courtesy

This is the creators' internet. The rest of us are just living in it. We're accustomed to the scores of comedy TikTokers, beauty YouTubers and lifestyle Instagram influencers gracing our feeds. A significant portion of these creators are productivity gurus, advising their followers on how they organize their lives.

Within the realm of productivity influencing, there's a surprising sect: Creators who center their content around a specific productivity app. They're a powerful part of these apps' ecosystems, drawing users to the platform and offering helpful tips and tricks. Notion in particular has a huge influencer family, with #notion gaining millions of views on TikTok.

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Payments Infrastructure

Fintech: Payments Infrastructure

A data-driven ranking of the most powerful players in tech — and the challengers best positioned to disrupt them.

Welcome back to the Protocol Power Index, a ranking of the most powerful companies by tech industry subsector, as well as the companies best positioned to challenge them. This time: payments infrastructure.

The payments stack has been evolving dramatically in the last decade with the rise of ecommerce and new forms of money transfers, and though it's a sector that's been touched by Midas through each of its iterations, there's somehow still space for newcomers to be minted. Payments giants have ceded coveted territory to new market entrants during the process, but they are hardly down for the count.

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Hirsh Chitkara
Hirsh Chitkara (@ChitkaraHirsh) is a researcher at Protocol, based out of New York City. Before joining Protocol, he worked for Business Insider Intelligence, where he wrote about Big Tech, telecoms, workplace privacy, smart cities, and geopolitics. He also worked on the Strategy & Analytics team at the Cleveland Indians.
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