Image: NTT

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way we work, educate, socialize, and more. At the same time, COVID-19 has also reshaped the manner in which people interact with professional athletic competition. In recent weeks, a number of sports leagues were forced to postpone gameplay to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Since these initial delays, a number of leagues have resumed play without fans in attendance. To enhance the experience for players and fans alike amid the surreal new normal, leagues have incorporated a vast suite of technologies. This weekend, the Tour de France is scheduled to begin and the historic race will also feature numerous tech additions to help bolster fan engagement from afar.

Tour de France 2020: Machine learning, augmented reality, and more

On Wednesday, Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) partner, NTT, announced a series of experiential enhancements using real-time data analytics and more to transform the way fans watch the Tour de France 2020. The “global stadium” experience will include an Augmented Reality (AR) Data app. Within the app, select users will be able to interact with various landscapes from around the Tour de France route.

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“This is not just a first for the Tour de France, but a first for sport; everything we would previously have done physically has been moved to a remote environment. Sport has the power to inspire and we wanted the public to enjoy the race this year even if they can’t be at the roadside,” said Ruth Rowan, chief marketing officer, NTT.

The AR portal will provide a “view from the sky” enabling fans to “see the riders among the mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes,” per a press release. People will also have access to live interactive race data as they take in these AR aerial views.

During the live racing broadcast, NTT and ASO are also providing “new data insights and visualisations” enabling “a fresh way of seeing and understanding the race, and how each team is performing.” A social media channel (@letourdata) will deliver racing updates, strategies as well as machine learning prediction determined by the #NTTPredictor.

The Tour de France’s race tracking platform, known formally as Race Center, has undergone a redevelopment for this year’s race. The latest Race Center 2.0 uses cloud services to provide rider telemetry, expert commentary, predictions, and other race data.

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“The approach we are taking at the Tour de France this year will revolutionise how sporting events are delivered in the future,” Rowan said. “We are using technology to take the fan experience to the next level. The new challenges we’ve addressed in preparing for this year’s race are inspiring our team to develop many more fantastic ideas to attract a new generation of digitally savvy fans.”