ESPN looks to world stage for 3D hologram technology

ESPN is experimenting with new 3D hologram technology, performed with proprietary software it developed in-house, that will be used extensively during the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa next summer. It allows studio anchors in Bristol, CT, to interview subjects located around the world as if they were physically in the studio.

The technology was demonstrated for media at ESPN Bristol headquarters, where anchor Chris Berman and Chuck Pagano, executive VP of technology for ESPN, were seated about 8ft apart. Looking at a flat-screen monitor in the room, anchor Bob Ley was electronically inserted into the picture, even though he was sitting in a different room down the hall. Unlike other attempts by other networks, this image looks very realistic.

Of course, Berman joked that the virtual technology “will save us so much airfare.”

Pagano said that the hologram technique is an extension of the EA Virtual Playbook technology that ESPN already uses for its NFL coverage. He added that, in general, technology continues to improve in different ways to allow ESPN to do things they never could in the past.

“The amount of technological development will be changing the business,” he said. “We're going to be consumed more with higher-quality, bigger displays in the living room. We're going to be doing more social interaction on devices to help complement that experience. There will be 3D.”

Pagano added that the idea for the new hologram technology is to “do a better job of telling the story. We're not trying to out-gimmick anyone. We're not trying to take away from the game. Whatever way the consumer wants it, we're going to try to get ourselves prepared to deliver it.”

It appears the all-sports network is using one of the most-watched sporting events in the world to distinguish itself from the increasingly fierce competition from the various professional sports leagues that have become popular with fans.

See a clip of the ESPN hologram technology in action here.