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La Liga scores on high-tech

As world football slowly accepts goal-line technology, LaLiga in Spain is scoring all the high-tech goals, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK



A year ago, when the Spanish football league unveiled virtual reality technology for fans to enjoy LaLiga matches through VR headsets, this was the poor relation of the high-tech initiatives that are changing the game in Spain.

This year, VR is suddenly one of the highlights, as LaLiga gets to grips with the potential of 360 degree cameras and a user experience that moves through changing rooms, arrival of fans and players, and the exit to the pitch.

With the help of multiple cameras and Samsung Gear VR headsets, LaLiga is now offering recaps of the 2018-19 season in 3D virtual reality that provide fans sitting at home with the experience of being a spectator in the stadium. For those who don’t have the tech,the VR experience is being provided at LaLiga Corners, experiential spaces being set up across Spain.

LaLiga has worked with chip giants Intel to roll out Replay360, a technology that allows viewers to recreate 3D replays of any move, from any angle. No less than 38 cameras are installed throughout a stadium to allow spectators to “fly” over the action or position themselves from a player’s point of view. So far, six LaLiga stadiums have been fitted with the technology, including Barcelona’s Camp Nou and Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu.

VR and 3D replays are like the green shoots that appear above a complex maze of roots hidden underground. They represent the most visible face of a technology revolution that has been sweeping LaLiga for the past two years.

During a recent showcase at the RCD Espanyol de Barcelona stadium, on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress, it unveiled the artificial intelligence technology that is guiding the video assistant referee (VAR), among other.

“More than ever before, a football match is a unique experience thanks to recent technological advances which have improved the standing of Spanish clubs, the professionalism of its technical bodies, as well as the fan experience,” said Joris Evers, LaLiga chief communications officer. 

“VAR has become the protagonist of each football match, enabling more even-handed referee decisions, adding prestige to our league, and more drama and new experiences for our fans.”

VAR is now being used worldwide, following heavy resistance from the old guard at football’s controlling body, FIFA. With much of that generation ousted or banned from participating, the game has finally been able to bring in technology to improve the experience for all. At the very least, it helps referees avoid obvious errors regarding goals, penalties, and red cards. 

LaLiga has taken it a step further. With technology provider EVS and the official producer of the competition, Mediapro, it has introduced a multi-angle review tool called Xeebra, which offers referees more accurate technology for making decisions. Built-in artificial intelligence calibrates the playing field so that graphic overlays can support decision making.

The referees love the technology. During the first 19 match days of this season, refs used the VAR system to review 2,280 incidents. The good news is that their initial decisions were mostly proved correct. However, refs modified their final decisions on 59 occasions. That is nearly five dozen incidents that could have changed the outcome of games had the ref not had some virtual assistance.

Even scheduling of matches is now benefiting from new technology.

“At a time when there is much talk about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, we are also starting to use these technologies, for example, to optimise scheduling of our matches,” said Evers. 

A new cloud-based tool called Calendar Selector applies machine learning and algorithms to suggest optimal match schedules, based on past patterns of attendance, viewership, traffic and about 70 other variables. The built-in AI is already predicting crowd size to within 1% of the actual attendance. It works hand in hand with “Sunlight” software, which predicts natural light conditions at every minute for each match. 

“It indicates areas of sun and shade in the stadium, revealing how the sun will affect the television image, fans and players, and also help with match scheduling. To achieve this, LaLiga uses 3D reconstructions of stadiums.”

The match and player analysis service, Mediacoach, which was reported in this column a year ago, has also evolved dramatically. An advanced application to provide clubs and coaches with tools aimed at improving the performance of teams and players, it includes 10 years of data and history, and generates heat maps of current play with only an 18 second delay.

“This democratic sharing of data in LaLiga is unique,” said Evers. And now it has also been made available to the media to improve audio-visual broadcasting.

“This year’s technology includes the intelligent detection of the ball’s position on the pitch. The movement of the ball is used to locate precisely, and in real time, where the action of the game is. Ambient microphones distributed around the stadium are automatically activated to give more realism to the sound of the broadcast and bring the action closer to viewers.”

AI has also been roped in to serve fans better. With a little help from Bixby, Samsung’s artificial intelligence platform, LaLiga has introduced an intelligent virtual assistant to offer information through voice and text on multiple devices. It will eventually be available on all major chatbots, offering information like schedules, results, player statistics and videos of outstanding plays.

The combination of all these technologies and innovations means that football lovers are increasingly able to achieve a level of involvement with a game that was previously only available in video games like Electronic Arts’ Fifa 19.

“In the past they tried to make video games like live broadcast,” said Evers. “Now they’re trying to make live broadcast more like video games.”

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee


Gaming gets rad at Rand Show



With the opening of the 125th Rand Show at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, today, gamers and cosplayers have a new destination to strut their stuff.

A new addition to the show, the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion, is offering anything from gaming and cosplay to dance-offs and  science displays.

The organisers provided the following information (although several million exclamation marks and exaggerations have been removed!):

Fortnite Tournament

There was a time when Gaming was a considered a solitary pastime, confined to single player consoles; but that truly is a thing of the past with a fully immersive Fortnite Tournament open to all Fortnite afficionados and even those just starting out. Players can battle it out over both show weekends, including a final on each weekend. Family fan clubs can also get in on the action with live broadcasts of the game as it happens across screens – a full-on Fortnite family affair. Sponsored by PlayStation, gamers are truly going to be spoiled and should get in on the action as fast as they can because R 100 000 in cash prizes is up for grabs.

Smart Technology Centre will deliver a super-fast FibreMAX 500Mbps fibre link, wholly dedicated to the gaming pavilion to ensure that absolutely nothing ruins the thrill of the National Fortnite Tournament. 

“As the exclusive connectivity provider, we have gone all out to ensure an amazing experience for gamers,” says Dillynn Els of Smart Technology Centre (STC), an internet service provider (ISP) and IT technology partner. “When it comes to gaming and the best experience possible, it’s all about ensuring we provide a dedicated, uncapped, unshaped connection that makes every second count.”

Keen players can come along and enter on the day, but don’t delay because space is limited.

Fortnite Inspired Dance Off

Visitors can come along and be entertained by the finalists in the Fortnite inspired dance-off. There will be daily dances to enjoy for the entire duration of the show.

Come and play – Cosplay, to be exact.

The stage is set for a celebration of creativity and imagination that is going to be literally out of this world. Super hero heavy weights and masters of the mysterious will be letting their creative vision loose and take part in various Cosplay Tournaments and a visually stunning Cosplay Masquerade. Come see what all the fuss is about and get lost in this world costumes, colour and creative talent.

Games, Games and Science

For those wanting to get their gaming on, there will be three free play areas sponsored by Xbox with a host of games available to play. Xbox will be giving away 3 Xbox 1’s and an awesome Xbox 1X, but you truly have to be in it to win it, so make sure you don’t miss out.

The Kalahari Scientist will be onstage delighting visitors with his explosive displays that are guaranteed to up the ooh and aah factor with audiences young and old.

But wait, there’s more

Along with the larger-than-life gaming entertainment offering, visitors will also get to be the first gamers on SA soil to get a sneak peak of PlayStation’s brand new Mortal Kombat 11. Don’t miss your chance to experience the continuation of this epic saga through a new cinematic story that is more than 25 years in the making. The iconic showcasing brutal battles like never before, along with a host of customisable fighters with enhanced graphics and animations.

Other activities at the Pavilion include VR Experiences, a full-on NAG Nerf Arena, Gaming vendors with awesome gaming content, retailers selling gaming related products and software, and tutorials and workshops on how to improve your gaming skills, Celebrity Fortnite match off for charity.

With huge sponsors such as PlayStation, Xbox, MMS, NAG, SABC 2 and Smart Technology, the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion is geared up to become a hot zone of entertainment.

Win big

In case the entertainment offering just doesn’t get the heart beats racing fast enough, an all-expenses paid trip to TwitchCon USA, sponsored by PlayStation, in conjunction with 94.7 Highveld Stereo, is waiting for one lucky visitor to grab it. Every ticket purchased into the Entertainment Gaming Pavilion qualifies as an entry, so bring the whole family along for the ride.

Tickets to the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion can be purchased at the show for R 20 which gives the ticket holder access for  two hours.

The pavilion will be open from 14h00 to 19h00 weekdays and 10h00 to 19h00 on weekends from 19 to 28 April 2019.

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Riaad Moosa show debuts on Vodacom Video Play



Riaad Moosa’s comedy special, Life Begins, will be the first major local title to be released on Vodacom’s video-on-demand service, Video Play.

As an award-winning comedian, actor, writer and presenter, Riaad Moosa is one of South Africa’s most renowned funny men. His one-man show is available for download on the platform from today, 26 April 2019. Life Begins is rated PG-16L

Vodacom’s says its affordable video-on-demand service, Video Play, has had an incredible uptake since its launch in August 2018, with over 2-million subscribers. 

“But with a proliferation of affordable video-on-demand platforms available to the South African market, what is it that gives Video Play the competitive edge?” it asked in a release this week. “Recognising the consumer’s need for flexibility and freedom of choice, Vodacom has ingeniously developed an adaptable subscription model that puts the power in consumers’ hands. Forget being tied down to a monthly subscription. Video Play gives consumers the liberty of choosing a daily, weekend or even monthly package. 

“Blockbuster movies can even be viewed for a once off cost, without subscription. Furthermore, these bundles can be purchased according to niche categories and genres, from Bollywood movies to gospel music.”

Consumers are able to pay for movies and series by using their airtime or adding it to their bill, eliminating the need for a credit card. Subscribers are also able to purchase video-specific data at a fraction of the regular price to consume constant content without overspending. Daily subscriptions start from R5 a day.

Zunaid Mahomed, Group Digital and Fixed Services Officer, says: “Video Play has enabled the company to provide a seamless and enjoyable customer experience. With the addition of Riaad Moosa’s Life Begins, we’re excited to offer consumers even more quality content and a wider variety of entertainment on demand than ever before. We’re putting quality entertainment, into the hands of anyone with a mobile device and an internet connection.”

Riaad Moosa describes his show as “very philosophical and existential”.

“It involves the normal issues of getting older while at the same time experiencing, at a maturity where I’m supposed to be wise, a world that is completely turned on its head.  It’s about how I negotiate all these things happening around me while trying to maintain a positive attitude. Through my comedic lens, I hope to put a different spin on that and hopefully I can enter my next 40 years with renewed vigour and excitement.”

To access Riaad Moosa’s Life Begins comedy special, register for Video via the Video Play website (

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