Pioneering project to allow immersive 5G based sports experiences

The 5GEdgeXR sport project is harnessing 5G networks to provide new ways to watch or experience sports and the performing arts

Engineers from Strathclyde supported and installed a 5G private network as part of a pioneering project aimed at bringing immersive experiences of live content to viewers on consumer devices

The 5GEdgeXR sport project is harnessing 5G networks to provide new ways to watch or experience sports and the performing arts.

The innovation with EE's 5G network, BT Sport, BT Applied Research and external partners and suppliers including the University, brings highly immersive, personalised experiences which re-imagine the experiences through virtual, augmented and mixed reality applications.

Everyday devices

Using everyday devices such as smartphones, tablets and TVs, as well as the latest augmented reality headsets, the new prototypes enable users to take control and engage in an event from any angle of their choosing.

Building on successful demonstrations for a MotoGP event at Silverstone in 2021, engineers from the University's Software Defined Radio team, StrathSDR, began the work on a private, 5G stand-alone network, while University spin-out firm Neutral Wireless provided and engineered the 5G shared spectrum radios and core that enabled the outside extended reality (XR) experiences to de demonstrated.

The prototypes are the first outputs from the project, which demonstrates how the potential of EE's 5G network, paired with cloud graphics processing units, can enable consumers to view events in a range of new, highly immersive ways.

Immersive videos

Examples included showing how the technology can be used to measure how hard the ball has been kicked and how far it will go on the rugby pitch, with the data being streamed in real time to enhance the experience. Boxing fans can bring fight nights into their own living room with highly immersive holographic videos which puts them up close to the boxers as they fight. 

Football fans are offered a fully immersive ‘like being there’ experience, with screens showing the live TV match feed, team sheets and match info, embedded match information graphics showing teams score, clock, and an interactive timeline that enables users to directly jump to key events within the match.

The prototypes, which are the latest industry-first collaboration around the use of world-class 5G networks between EE, BT Sport, BT Applied Research and BT Media & Broadcast, and are being further developed by BT Sport for launch in the future.  

They also include an immersive race presentation for Moto GP through a virtual multi-screen viewing suite with 17 different video panels. Dancers, musicians and other artists can remotely demonstrate, teach and engage with students and fans using EE’s 5G network to provide real-time interactive experiences.

Professor Bob Stewart from the University of Strathclyde, Director of the StrathSDR team  said:

5G Edge XR is an exciting project featuring new applications for engagement and interaction for sports events.  Our team is very pleased to have had the opportunity to augment the 5G connectivity used for the demonstrators from the project.

Paul Coffey, CEO of The Scotland 5G Centre said: “In the coming years, 5G EdgeXR type applications will not just be for professional and headlining sports. As the technology matures, we can expect to see application to more provincial events, such as shinty, local rugby sevens events, and mountain biking events in Scotland.”

Dr Cameron Speirs, CCO of Neutral Wireless Ltd said: “We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to engineer and integrate the technology to set up a 5G standalone private network to support the demonstrations for the 5G EdgeXR project to complement the connectivity available from public networks.”

5G capabilities

The project is supported by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport as part of 5G Create programme to develop new use cases and 5G technical capabilities. Other high-end XR services being explored by the project address the needs of industries such as construction, health and retail.

Lisa Perkins, Research Realisation, BT, said: “We’re excited to be unveiling experiences that could transform sports, culture, and the arts as well as demonstrating the benefits 5G can bring to people and businesses.”