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NBA’s Kings set VR first with Verizon venture

US telecommunications company Verizon has offered an insight into how 5G technology will change the way we experience live sports by offering a demonstration during a recent Sacramento Kings NBA basketball game.

A group of students from the local Men’s and Women’s Leadership Academy, and College Track Sacramento, were invited to the Golden 1 Center arena on Saturday to watch the Kings face the Los Angeles Lakers and experience the game as if they were courtside, thanks to AR/VR and Verizon 5G technology.


The event marked the first time a US professional sports team used 5G to deliver a live, in-game 360 virtual reality experience to fans. A courtside camera set up at the scorer’s table captured the game and streamed it live over Verizon’s 5G technology to the AR/VR goggles worn by the students in the arena’s esports lounge.

Brian Mecum, vice-president of network engineering at Verizon, said: “As 5G evolves, it will change the stadium experience offering real-time information on how to best get to your seats, wait-times at concession stands and restrooms, and customised content like exclusive perspectives from coaches and players before, during and after the game.

“It will also give access to a whole new audience of people who previously may never have had the opportunity to watch championship games live from the front row.”

The event built on Verizon’s series of 5G firsts like the first video call placed over a pre-commercial 5G connection on a prototype 5G device at the 2018 Super Bowl in February and the world’s first launch of a commercial 5G service, 5G Home, in October. 5G Home broadband internet service is currently available in four US cities, including Sacramento, and Verizon is on track to be first to 5G mobility early next year.

For players, 5G will provide them with more analytics to help improve performance. Earlier this year, Verizon equipped two NBA All-Star players with 5G-powered first-person goggles that had video cameras attached for some shooting practice.

The live video from the cameras was streamed over Verizon’s 5G pre-commercial network and back to the goggles in near real-time, allowing both players to catch the ball and make their shots almost as if they were seeing with the naked eye.

The Kings are known as one of the most tech-focused sports teams, while their Golden 1 Center is recognised as amongst the world’s most technologically advanced and sustainable arenas.

Sacramento Kings chief technology officer Ryan Montoya said: “This is an extension of our commitment to using technology to enhance the way fans engage with the team – whether live streaming a game in virtual reality, downloading real-time statistics via our award winning dual mode app, or watching 4K replays on our ultra HD videoboard, technology allows us to create and deliver engaging content.”