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The latest Next Gen Stat produced by the NFL and Amazon Web Services is Coverage Classification, an identifier of team passing defensive tactics.
There are eight man and zone pass defenses included in Coverage Classification. The metric is computed using AI algorithms constructed by the AWS Machine Learning Solutions Lab that draws on the player tracking data gleaned from the Zebra Technologies RFID tags on every player’s shoulder pads. More than 60,000 passing plays from the past four seasons were included in the training data set.
The development of Coverage Classification was inspired by a submission to the NFL’s annual Big Data Bowl. Earlier this week, the league announced the fifth edition of the Kaggle-hosted, AWS-backed analytics contest. This year’s theme is calls on data scientists to analyze pass blocking and pass rushing.
Longtime Rugby World Cup sponsor Mastercard has debuted an audio-embedded Player of the Match trophy at the ongoing women’s World Cup in New Zealand. The financial company says it’s the world’s first sonic trophy, and speakers in the trophy play audio from the match via fans mic’d up in the stadium, as well as stadium atmosphere sounds and match broadcast commentary.
A new trophy is given to each player who wins the Mastercard Player of the Match for the tournament’s 26 games running through Nov. 12. Mastercard’s on-site team compiles and edits the audio during matches before awarding the trophy once the match is over. Mastercard worked with local cultural experts such as Māori fashion designer Nichola Te Kiri to design the trophy, which also blends melodies that pay homage to ceremonial traditions of the indigenous Aotearoa/New Zealand people.
“The trophy’s cloak-like shape, color and patterns represent a woman’s responsibility/role as a leader and her connection to her landscape,” Te Kiri said in a statement. “With the sonic element providing a commemoration of each match, I am truly privileged to pay homage to these outstanding athletes and their individual and unique narratives.”
Mastercard became a founding global partner of World Rugby’s Women in Rugby program in 2021. The company is also in its 25th year of sponsoring MLB.
The Israeli Basketball Association is enlisting Pixellot’s artificial intelligence technology to stream an equal amount of its men’s and women’s basketball games across eight separate leagues.
Through the partnership, Pixellot’s automated game streams can be viewed on the IBBA’s basketball platform, and Pixellot will also simultaneously become an official sponsor of the Israeli youth basketball leagues. Pixellot’s unmanned cameras automatically track player and ball movement, allowing the company to produce and disseminate as many as 150,000 games per month across over 70 countries.
Pixellot most recently expanded its sports video production technology throughout Canada after striking an August deal with the streaming app HomeTeam Live. But this new deal with the IBBA is closer to home for the Israel-based company and purportedly makes the IBBA the first basketball league to broadcast men’s and women’s leagues equitably.
Pixellot raised $161 million at a $500 million valuation earlier this year to move into Asia and Latin America and has spent much of the past two years developing Pixellot YOU, an AI platform that uses machine learning to record youth games and practices and then distribute automated highlights.
The IBBA has also made youth basketball a priority, particularly for female players. The league has 50 Israeli women’s and girls’ teams and, in recent years, has routinely televised women’s national and first division games on OTT platforms. Overall, the IBBA has 2,360 teams and 35,000 female and male players.
In Europe, FC Barcelona has also capitalized on Pixellot game streams. In the U.S., the NBA and MLB utilize Pixellot technology to livestream youth and college-centric events, while ESPN, Genius Sports, NBC’s SportsEngine and the National Federation of State High School Association have been Pixellot partners.
Vieww, the Bundesliga’s provider of its Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and Goal Line Technology (GLT) solutions, has received FIFA certification for both systems, joining Hawk-Eye Innovations as the only vendor with those dual licenses from the federation. 
FIFA granted Vieww its certification for the VAR system prior to the 2022-23 season, and it is in place for both Germany’s top league as well as Bundesliga 2. The majority owner of Vieww is Sportec Solutions, which is a joint venture of Deltatre and the DFL, which is the German governing body for soccer.
Vieww was included in the first cohort of FIFA’s Innovation Program, which was announced in May 2021. Sportec Solutions is also Bundesliga’s provider for match data.
NESN will livestream Boston Bruins and Red Sox games in 4K/HDR, becoming the first U.S. regional sports network to show NHL and MLB games in that video quality within its own streaming app. Cloud media delivery company Akamai Technologies has partnered with NESN to facilitate the bandwidth for 4K/HDR streams on the NESN 360 streaming service.
The high-quality video is initially only available for all home game streams for the Bruins and Red Sox. NESN, which is owned by Fenway Sports Group, launched its regional direct-to-consumer streaming service in June for cord-cutting fans in the New England area to watch Bruins and Red Sox games, marking the first streaming offering of its kind from an RSN. A subscription to NESN 360 costs $29.99 per-month or $329.99 per-year.
NESN 360 debuted 4K/HDR during Red Sox home games this past MLB season and will extend to Bruins home games starting Oct. 15. New England-based fans can stream NESN 360 via their iPhone, Android, Apple TV, Fire TV and Google TV devices.
Predictive analytics company nVenue has launched an NFL micro-betting product and also added fantasy sports guru Matthew Berry to its advisory team.
The Dallas-based nVenue, a graduate of the Comcast Sports Tech Accelerator, had its national debut this summer as part of Apple TV+’s Friday night MLB broadcasts, powering pitch-by-pitch probabilities. Its AI models use historical data and live inputs to produce predictions in less than a second, and now an NFL product is available to media companies and sportsbooks via its NextPlayLive API.
Berry, a longtime ESPN analyst who recently joined NBC Sports, will advise nVenue on product development and help showcase its predictive markets through his content.
PointsBet has launched an NFL microbet homepage on its app, which reportedly led to a 108% increase in live in-game wagering this past football weekend.
Marketed by Pointsbet as “lightning bets,” the app allows users to wager on the outcome of every NFL play and drive during a game. At this week’s CAA World Congress of Sport, the NBA’s deputy commissioner Mark Tatum suggested that in-game betting will soon account for 70% of all overall bets.
As a result, PointsBet has made an emphasis of micro-betting and claims that its “lightning bets” led to an overall 184% rise in unique customers using the platform week over week. It also said that during last Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals game, its microbets were “the most popular live markets and third highest in terms of handle.”
PointsBet is also upgrading its app content, which will include videos from proprietary shows such as “The Straight Line with Ryan Leaf.” In 2021, PointBet acquired Ireland-based Banach Technology, whose software built the sports wagering platforms and algorithms that help advance PointsBet’s live “Always On” in-game platform.
This past January, PointsBet first trialed its live in-game wagering option during the Bengals-Raiders playoff game on NBC — considering PointsBet is in the midst of a five-year partnership as the official sports betting partner of NBCUniversal. PointsBet app users could view live odds to make spread and moneyline bets, minus any suspensions that could prevent the wagers from taking place.
The PointsBet app also allows microbets for NBA and college basketball games, with plans to branch into MLB and the World Cup. About 10 months ago, PointsBet signed a deal with Sportradar’s Live Channel Online service so that it could livestream games within its app.
The Toronto Raptors have installed a new 120-foot-long videoboard inside its practice facility to display real-time advanced shot metrics from Noah Basketball as well as game or practice footage during training sessions. Noah’s shot-tracking system leverages computer vision cameras mounted above rims to measure each shot’s arc, depth, and left-right positioning, as well as heat maps and tracking makes and misses.
The Raptors first installed Noah at its OVO Athletic Centre training facility in 2018. Coaches and players typically viewed the shot analytics on iPads or computers, but that process is now easier with the real-time data being shown during practices on the massive wall-hung videoboard. Noah uses facial recognition to identify each player and keep track of their individual shooting performances, while it is also providing automated voice feedback on shots inside the Raptors’ facility.
“My original thought was that we could have a Jumbotron courtside so that we could be doing things in practice and want to teach immediately,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse told The Canadian Press. “If they missed [a shot], they can see why. If it was too far to the left, if it was too long, it was too short, [the] arc was too flat, whatever.”
Nurse joined the board of directors at Noah Basketball in 2021. The company’s shot-tracking system is used by more than a dozen NBA teams, including the Clippers, Knicks, Trail Blazers, Suns and Warriors, as well as hundreds of college basketball programs. Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league also partnered with Noah earlier this year.
“We use Noah everyday,” Clippers guard Terance Mann told SportTechie in August. “Once you walk in the cameras recognize your face. It tracks all your shots, your makes, your arc, how accurate your shot is left to right. So I love Noah and I like the feedback it gives. It gives you the day, it gives you the week, it gives you the month, it gives you the year, so it’s pretty cool to see.
A triumvirate of NFT companies have partnered with former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis to create Universe 52, a private Web3 platform that will connect fans with the former five-time All-Pro linebacker.
Through Summit NFT Studios and Flux88 — and ultimately powered by blockchain-centric Fanaply — the public can buy NFT membership passes starting Wednesday that will unlock the chance to interact with Willis at 49ers home games this season, to attend a watch party with him for the 49ers-Rams rematch on October 30 and to own some of his personal game memorabilia.
The NFT passes are decorated with artwork from Rob Prior Studios, which has previously done animations with Marvel, D.C., Todd McFarlane, Kevin Eastman and Image Comics. Fanaply, a turnkey NFT provider, is behind the project and, since 2018, has developed NFTs in conjunction with the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Oklahoma City Thunder, Pac-12 Conference and Kentucky Derby. It also produced NFTs for the Dallas Stars’ Tyler Sequin, similar to the Willis platform.
Flux88 Studios has previously created NFTs for Trevor Noah, Vin Scully and Bret Boone, among others, while Summit NFT Studios — after debuting an in-house NFT collection in 2021 — is pivoting now towards sports tokens.
Meta will release its Quest 2 Active Pack on Oct. 25 in what will be the company’s first fitness accessory bundle targeted to those who use Meta’s virtual reality headsets to exercise and play sports games. The Active Pack will cost $70 and contains safety accessories such as wrist straps and adjustable knuckle straps, as well as a wipeable foam interface worn under the Quest headset so that users can remove sweat from the device after working out.
Rob Shaw, Meta’s director of sports partnerships, first hinted at counter-sweat features coming to Meta’s headset in April when he spoke at SportTechie’s State Of The Industry conference. “The next iteration that we’re going to have of our current Quest 2 product is to make the headset more sweat proof, to have the controllers have better grips,” Shaw said. Meta also announced this week that Gym Class, a VR basketball game, will soon debut on its Quest 2 headset. Users can pay $14.99 to play privately on virtual courts with their friends or access the game’s free version to play on public virtual courts
Meta is also set to start selling its new Quest Pro headset on Oct. 25 for $1,500, a significant price jump compared to Meta’s existing $400 Quest 2 headset. The Quest Pro is being geared toward businesses who want to work in virtual reality, or in what Meta refers to as the Metaverse. The new headset contains eye and facial-tracking sensors for those movements to translate to a user’s virtual avatar. Meta also announced it has partnered with Microsoft to bring Microsoft Teams, Windows 365 and Xbox gaming into Meta’s headsets.
Meta’s collaboration with Microsoft and new VR headset come as Apple is expected to launch a mixed reality headset by early next year. Other new headsets from Sony PlayStation and ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, add further competition to the hardware market for the metaverse.
“Soon you will have almost full body positional data from the headsets. Right now you can infer full body, we get [data] from the headset itself and hand movements from the controllers through things like inverse kinematics,” Sam Cole, CEO of VR fitness app FitXR told SportTechie last month. “Those AI systems are getting better and better every day. But also new headsets are bringing out additional tracking by cameras that will start to also make fuller arm tracking possible, lower torso tracking possible.”
In advance of next month’s World Cup, FIFA has partnered with Roblox to create a free-to-access digital environment, FIFA World, that will host video content, social spaces and activities for users to earn rewards and collectibles. 
FIFA World is intended to be a communal gathering space in the metaverse for experiencing events like the men’s World Cup in Qatar and the 2023 women’s World Cup, which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand beginning in July. The new FIFA+ library will provide the video used within the digital space, and updates for new content are promised, such as virtual kits from participating national teams.
Two young stars — 19-year-old Pedro “Pedri” González, who plays for Barcelona FC and Spain, as well as 20-year-old Lena Oberdorf of VfL Wolfsburg and the German women’s national team — will be ambassadors of FIFA World and make appearances.
At SBJ’s Brand Innovation Summit in June, Roblox head of sports partnerships Hayden Walling said that the platform had more than 50 million monthly active users and that 44% of experiences are played with a friend, describing sports leagues’ opportunity within Roblox as “almost blue sky in the fact that you can almost build anything. You have an out-of-the box social network that’s 3D with a very engaged audience that wants to discover things.”
In a recent study from Momentum Worldwide, sports fan surveyed cited video games Roblox and Fortnite as being the “metaverse” platforms they’re most likely to have used over the past month. The NFL, Wimbledon tennis, Nike, and Dick’s Sporting Goods have all launched virtual worlds on Roblox over the past year where users can access digital merchandise for their avatars.


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