Advanced Television

Vodafone 5G boost for visually impaired tennis fans

July 6, 2023

By Colin Mann

UK multiplay telco Vodafone is trialling new 5G-powered GiveVision headsets on Centre Court and No. 1 Court at Wimbledon which it claims let visually impaired fans watch live tennis like never before, marking the first time this 5G technology has ever been used in tennis.

Live footage is streamed from local TV cameras over Vodafone 5G to the GiveVision headsets. They then enhance the footage to suit the person’s specific sight profile, by bringing it closer to their eye to stimulate the photoreceptor cells in the retina (cells that respond to light), which means a degree of sight can be regained.

By using 5G, fans can be fully immersed in the action, as they can watch the match live from anywhere in the stands. Previously, sports fans using the headsets could watch the live broadcast feed. But they would need to stay within 10m-20m of a transmitter box in a pre-determined ‘accessibility’ area, with each box only able to support a limited number of headsets.

The wearable tech lets fans feel the music through vibrations, delivered by 24 touch-points around the suit, to provide a multi-sensory experience.

Vodafone 5G covers an entire court or stadium, in unlimited numbers, so visually impaired fans can enjoy the action from anywhere in the crowd alongside their friends and family. This showcases how the power of 5G technology can help make sport more accessible to more people.

As well as accessing the live feeds, people testing the headsets can switch between modes and use the camera phone in the headset to focus on whatever action they like.

The headsets are being trialled for the very first time at Wimbledon by visually impaired tennis fans and players Rosie Pybus, Ivan Rodriguez Deb and Sinead Grealy.

Using Vodafone’s 5G network to power the headsets removes the lag between the broadcast feed and the headsets, as well helping to increase the speed and reliability of the GiveVision headsets in a live sport environment, making them accessible to more people and in more locations.

As each individual’s sight loss varies, the headsets can be adjusted to fit the specific requirements of each person, allowing the wearer to tailor the experience to their personal needs and independently follow the on-court action. This includes features like amending the zoom, brightness and contrast of the footage.

After a successful trial, Vodafone is exploring the possibility of making the 5G headsets more widely available at future Championships, as well as at other live sporting events across Vodafone partners.

“At Vodafone we are committed to using our technology to bring fans closer to the action,” said Vodafone’s UK Chief Commercial Officer, Max Taylor. “Wimbledon is one of the most iconic moments in the British summer calendar, and we are proud to be able to showcase how the power of our 5G network can help make the sport more accessible to people.”

“At GiveVision, our mission is to redefine accessibility standards for visually impaired spectators at all UK sports and entertainment venues,” added GiveVision CEO, Elodie Draperi. “By working with Vodafone and using their 5G network, we’re improving stadium accessibility without any infrastructure changes, giving visually impaired tennis fans an immersive experience at the prestigious Wimbledon Championships.”

“We want Wimbledon to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, and we are delighted to support this fantastic initiative by our Official Partner Vodafone and GiveVision,” commented Wimbledon’s Marketing & Commercial Director, Usama Al-Qassab. “These headsets have the ability to make a groundbreaking difference to the Wimbledon experience for guests with vision impairment. I am thrilled that they can watch all the match action in real time, sitting with their friends and family, and enjoying the tennis.”

The activity is part of Vodafone’s broader commitment to improve accessibility across both sport and music, following their development of haptic suits for deaf music fans at Mighty Hoopla in 2022 and the addition of all-new visually impaired and wheelchair categories to Play Your Way To Wimbledon, powered by Vodafone, the UK’s largest mass participation tennis competition.

Vodafone remains committed to using 5G technology to enhance live experiences and says the collaboration with GiveVision demonstrates the potential of what is possible in the digital future.

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