Technology has been seeping into football since the dawn of the Premier League. But what's in store for the beautiful game in years to come?
Just hours separate us from discovering whether the Lord Triesman debacle and Panorama's FIFA expose has damaged England's chances of hosting the World Cup in 2018. By that time of course, Wayne Rooney will be in the twilight of his career, David Beckham will be screeching from the touchline in his new assistant manager role alongside gaffer Gary Neville, and those watching the spectacle on TV will surely be anticipating a distinctly new viewing experience.
Technology has been grudgingly allowed to intrude on football's ancient rituals since the first televised league game, and as we hope the efforts of Beckham and company to bring football back home pay off , we cast a futuristic eye over what we can expect from the future of football viewing. See below for our vision of how we will watch the World Cup in 2018
Also check out T3's list of best Apple iPhone football apps
1. How will we view the World Cup in 2018?
London 2018 will be truly special for the home viewer. The opening game and final knock-out stages will be in 3D. Every game will be in better-than-1080p ultra HD, and streamed live to your iPad 5G or HTC Fantastic. If you get home from work late, you’ll be able to watch the game in full, on demand. Hyde Park will play host to giant, Super Hi-Vision screens that give a far better view than being sat pitch-side at Wembley. Oh, and Wayne Rooney will be bald and David Beckham will be wheeled on in the 83rd minute of the quarter final to take a free kick and win his 427th cap. He’ll miss, though.
2. Super Hi-vision: makes HD look silly
Soon, your full-HD, 1920x1080p gogglebox will be as outdated as a black and white portable. Computer monitors are already racing ahead of that resolution and in Japan they’re plotting the rise of Ultra High Definition TV, otherwise known as Super Hi-Vision. This can clock a whopping 7,680x4,320 pixels and would require a whole new generation of satellites and video sources as just 15 minutes of SHV footage fills a whopping 3.5 terabytes. To give an idea of scale, that’s the equivalent of about 100 Blu-ray movies. That could certainly happen, but you have to question how useful such resolution would be to most home users. It’s more likely it will bypass our lounges and be used only for large-scale public displays and, perhaps, future pubs, on match day.
3. Virtual commentary
Stateside, ESPN has introduced the EA Sports Virtual Playbook to its NFL coverage. It uses movie-style green-screen technology to bring life-size 3D players into the studio. After attaching two Xboxes to two studio cameras, which then act as oversized games controllers, the commentators call up gaming footage depicting certain moves and plays from EA. They’re then able to pause, rewind and spin the virtual players, interacting with them as they appear next to them in the studio. The technology’s currently slow and not very spontaneous, as footage needs to be prepared in advance, but one day soon we might see Andy Gray controlling a 3D Wayne Rooney live in the studio.
4. Action replay
“In the future, interaction is going to be active, not passive,” says Darren Long, Sky Sports’ head of operations. That means you’ll be able to use your console to replay the action in any game, as it happens. unlike watching a replay over and over again, you’ll be able to try your luck at retaking that shot, or trying to save that goal, with the exact same players on the pitch and the same look and feel as you get on your TV.
Stadium-viewing won’t just be about feeling the atmosphere. Graham Fisher also told The Orange Football Report it was “not impossible” that stadium-like views will be available on your mobile phone, where “You’ll see an avatar-based representation of the game rather than a video version. You could choose where you were sitting, choose your viewing angles, choose to be in your favourite stand as it used to be when you were allowed to stand.”
6. Holographic TV
Japanese scientists at the university of Hokkaido are already working on holographic technologies that could have a place in the home by 2018 and as you can see from the video below, are hoping to have it in place for the 2022 World Cup (if the bid is successful). That means when you fire up your future TV, you’ll have your very own England star twisting, turning and diving in your lounge, right by the fibre optic carpet and GM fish tank.
7. Instant in-seat replays
Instant in-seat replays will be another huge part of the game in future stadiums. The Orange Football Report paints a stunning picture of interactive seats where you can order in-match food and drink and watch replays. Graham Fisher, MD of Orange Research and Development said: “We could see the rise of in–seat services… delivered via broadband to seats.” That may mean fewer hilarious songs and less Wildean banter with rival fans, but at least you’ll be able to order prawn sandwiches and watch that 25-yard screamer from every conceivable angle.
Interactive football 2.0
Over the last decade Sky has continued to revolutionise the way we watch the game with a host of interactive features that put you hotly in the manager’s seat. Choice of game, camera angles and commentary tracks and on-demand highlights packages are commonplace. Progress has slowed in recent years so the next generation of viewer interactive features is well overdue. Here are the innovations we’d like to see for the next World Cup…
1. Fifa-style replays
User-controlled, 360- degree, zoomable instant replays with video game-like controls.
We’ve seen the slightly uninspiring player cam, but this would add a new dimension. Imagine watching Messi weave through the defence from the great man’s own point of view.
3. Live voting
Who do you want to see brought off the bench? Was that handball deliberate?
4. Twitter widget
Discuss the main talking points of the game, live on screen, with your own personalised network of fellow fans. The “switch off Man Utd supporters who live in the home counties” option should prove popular.
5. Interactive gaming
You’ll be able to use your console to replay the on-pitch action as it happens. So take that penalty shot yourself and prove to your friends that you truly can “bend it” better than Beckham.