The National Basketball Association (NBA) will use the new Together Mode in the video meet app Microsoft Teams to place basketball fans courtside in a virtual experience during live games.
Starting July 30, the NBA will outfit each game court with 17-foot-tall LED screens that wrap three sides of the arena.
These “stands” will be populated with more than 300 cheering fans who will join the game using Together Mode in Teams.
Alongside a view of their fellow fans, participants can watch a live feed of the game right within Teams, Microsoft said in a statement on Friday.
Earlier this month, Microsoft launched new features in its video conferencing app, including a Together Mode that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to digitally place participants in a shared background, as if they are sitting in the same place with everyone else.
“This new experience, the first to go live as a result of the NBA/Microsoft partnership, gives participating fans the feeling of sitting next to one another at a live game without leaving the comfort and safety of their homes,” said Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365.
In April, the NBA and Microsoft established a multi-year alliance with the goal of creating next-gen experiences for basketball fans – starting with a new fan engagement platform.
“We are excited to partner with Microsoft to virtually incorporate NBA fans into our season restart,” said Sara Zuckert, Head of Next Gen Telecast, NBA.
“This unique live game experience will allow fans to maintain a sense of community as they watch their favourite teams and players”.
With Together Mode, it’s easy to maintain natural eye contact, for instance, or register fellow participants’ emotions as they react to what’s happening.
In addition to the virtual fan boards powered by Microsoft Teams, the NBA also announced a slew of in-venue and broadcast and digital enhancements that will help create a more immersive and communal viewing experience for fans during the 2019-20 NBA Restart.
The 2019-2020 NBA season is set to restart on July 30 in Orlando — without any fans in attendance.