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Aug 3, 2011

'Avatar-type' 3D plans revealed

The Premier League has unveiled ambitious plans to introduce an 'Avatar-type' interactive, virtual reality viewing experience to fans around the world.

With television making the move from standard definition to high definition in recent years - and 3D products increasingly penetrating the market - the Premier League have engaged Sony and Electronic Arts to look at ways an improved viewing experience can be brought to fans across the world.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore believes it might not be long before fans around the world are able to watch Premier League games as if they are there in the stands, utilising "immersion technology" to recreate the experience both visually and aurally.

The league has also scrapped controversial plans for a 39th league game - to be played abroad - to focus on the new technology.

"There's been a step-change from standard definition to high definition in terms of how people consume football," said Scudamore. "3D is coming along and there have been all these new devices coming on to the scene. There'll soon be a technological development that will allow people across the world to have a much richer type of experience in terms of watching and consuming football.

"Our efforts and energies are concentrated in that area, rather than they are in the old-fashioned and passé idea of flying around the world playing a 39th game. We'll find a technological solution."

Indeed, Scudamore believes such technology is only "between two to five years" from being available to the public.

"There's immersion technology being developed right now where you can sit down with headphones and a screen in front of you, and reproduce the feeling of being in a stadium," he noted. "If you turn your head one way you're looking at the left-hand goal and the other way you're looking at the right-hand goal.

"You'll be able to decide where you want to be: you could be on a Saturday at 3pm, English time, in Hong Kong deciding whether you want to be on the Kop end at Anfield or the Holte End at Aston Villa. There'll be a drop down menu and you'll be able to choose where you want to be and watch the game.

"It'll be like an Avatar type of thing available in your own home. It might sound pie in the sky, but it's not."

However, fans in England are unlikely to be able to experience everything the new technology will have to be offer - with Scudamore keen to ensure grounds remain full to preserve the matchday atmosphere come Saturday afternoon.

"It's more a global vision, as we wouldn't do anything in England to undermine the 3pm window," said Scudamore. "We want to protect the whole of English football and I'm a great protector of that window. I'd rather people were attending the stadia in England, whether it be at Barnet or Arsenal.

"Anything we did to undermine that would be difficult for me personally and professionally.

"But this can become a reality, and it can be produced to satisfy a mass market. As most consumer goods are. This is innovative, but I can see it happening. And it's exciting: the sort of thing we should be doing."

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