Augmented reality Indy 500: 5G set to transform the virtual race day fan experience

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing will feature a host of new technologies to enhance the race day feel from afar.

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The coronavirus pandemic forced professional sports leagues around the globe to postpone competition. In recent weeks, a number of sporting leagues have resumed gameplay albeit with shortened seasons and without fans in attendance. To assist with recreating the in-person look and feel of competition for players and fans alike, organizations have leveraged a host of cutting-edge technologies. Originally scheduled for May 24, the 104th annual Indianapolis 500 was postponed earlier this year. Now, the race will take place without fans in attendance on Sunday, Aug. 23. To boost the fan experience from afar, Verizon announced a series of 5G-enabled features to enhance the fan experience on race day.

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Indy 500: Race day augmented reality

While fans may not be able to attend the historic race in person this year, Verizon will use augmented reality (AR) to alternatively transport select fans to the raceway using the company's 5G Ultra Wideband service. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield will feature a 5G-enabled, high-definition, 360-degree camera allowing fans to use their smartphones to access the AR portal. Within the portal, fans can select their preferred perspective and view for greater control over the experience.

"With so many sports fans unable to attend live events due to the pandemic, 5G can help bring them into the heart of the action and provide a new and immersive viewing experience using applications like augmented and virtual reality," Nicki Palmer, chief product development officer at Verizon said in a press release.

5G broadcast footage, past races, and streaming

Verizon will also leverage its 5G Ultra Wideband capabilities to enhance the live broadcast. In partnership with NBC, Verizon is using a 5G broadcast camera placed near the finish line. NBC producers will then incorporate "select shots" from this camera stream into the broadcast.

This isn't the first time 5G has been used at the Indy 500. In 2019, Team Penske used 5G Ultra Wideband to examine performance as cars entered and exited the track's first turn. This streamed video content allowed the team to "analyze a driver's performance and make real-time changes while the car was still on track."

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Historically, the public meeting with racing drivers the day before the race is a popular part of the Indy 500. To virtually transport fans to the track, the event will be streamed on BlueJeans, a platform recently acquired by Verizon.

"For broadcasters, 5G means no wires on the track giving camera people the ability to move around quickly and gather various shots. It also means producers don't need to travel and be on-site at sporting events enabling them to produce broadcasts from anywhere in the world," Palmer said.

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