Intel kicked off a new ad campaign on Thursday featuring New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to highlight its growing move into sports-related technology.
The Brady deal includes a commercial that will air during Super Bowl LI that shows off a virtual reality-like spin through the quarterback’s morning routine.
Intel (INTC) last year formed the sports group after it acquired Replay Technology, which created a system called freeD that uses dozens of high-resolution video cameras to create live, immersive virtual reality environments well-suited to capturing sports or other live events. Broadcasters have used the gear to freeze the action and shift the viewing angle around a sports play, for example, making it seem as though a virtual camera is flying all through the scene.
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In this year’s Super Bowl, the system, called Intel 360, will also allow broadcasters to show viewers the action of a play through the point of view of a player on the field.
With the global PC market shrinking, Intel’s VR plans are part of a wider effort to find new markets and new applications for its computing chips. CEO Brian Krzanich has created teams to target specific industries, like the sports group, with packages of technology to address specific needs.
At first glance, the sports technology doesn’t play to Intel’s traditional strength in semiconductors. But the 360 VR video system requires massive computing power to crunch all the video data from dozens of cameras and render a virtual, 3D environment.
The more data-crunching computer power available to render the video, the more realistic and flexible the ultimate VR environment that is produced, said Jeff Hopper, head of marketing for the sports unit. “You need a massive amount of compute power to render essentially a completely life-like scene,” he said. “It generates gobs of data that have to be rendered.”
Eventually, the technology will allow individual viewers to manipulate the video of a sports event and share their own viewpoint highlights and analysis, Hopper said.
“Today I can go to social media and express my opinion about the Seahawks or the Patriots or pick a team,” Hopper said. “In the future, it’s more like story telling. I want to show you something. It’s a point of view that’s insightful.”