IBM Tests 'Simulcastr' Social Sharing at US Open

IBM introduced a new IBM Research-built social sharing technology called Simulcastr that lets users share video at the US Open.

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With the US Open tennis tournament coming to a close today, IBM, which has been providing IT infrastructure and apps for the event, is testing a new kind of social sharing technology called Simulcastr.

Simulcastr is a pilot feature within the IBM-developed official US Open iPhone app. Developed by IBM Research and IBM Interactive Experience, Simulcastr allows onsite fans to gain access to unique camera angles around the grounds as well as broadcaster video streams covering match play across 11 courts real time.

Fans also will be able to watch streams broadcast by other fans on site, thus allowing attendees to discover new experiences as they unfold across the US Open venue at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY.

Using the power of mobile and intelligent Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, Simulcastr takes advantage of excess capacity on the US Open WiFi enabling the real-time sharing of streaming video.

However, unlike other video sharing technologies, the Simulcastr video is not recorded and can only be shared with fans onsite at the US Open, respecting the broadcast rights and policies of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) surrounding video capture. Think of Simulcastr as a new kind of social sharing tool that gives every fan a courtside seat, no matter where they are on the grounds of the National Tennis Center.

“A fan sitting in the front row, who has a great view of the action, could be broadcasting that view and other fans not having such a great view could be using that and viewing that and enhancing that video,” said Nirmit Desai, an IBM researcher who is working on the Simulcastr project, in a video about it.

Indeed, “Fans at the tennis center who download the US Open app to their iPhones can choose real-time video feeds from various parts of the venue--anything from scenes of athletes heading for matches to shots of the queues at the refreshment stands,” Desai said in a post on IBM’s Smarter Planet blog. “Unlike with the popular video streaming service Meerkat and Periscope, the videos can’t be seen by anybody outside the tennis center.”

John Kent, vice president of global sponsorship and client programs at IBM, said Big Blue is offering fans a unique in-stadium experience for video. “So in addition to all the other features of the iPhone app, fans onsite will get access to what we call ‘perspectives’ with unique camera angles,” he said.

Yet, Nirmit says IBM is just scratching the surface of what might be possible in coming years. He noted that the technology could someday emerge as a “game-changer” for organizations that run sports and entertainment venues--making it even more enjoyable to attend an event in person rather than watching on TV.

In the current iteration of Simulcastr, fans are not allowed to shoot videos and share them with others. The video for Simulcastr is being shot by USTA employees or fixed cameras.

But you can imagine the possibilities for sports venues of all types in the future: "Fans might be able to choose from dozens or even hundreds of video feeds shot by other fans scattered around a stadium or ballpark,” Desai said. “Or a fan may ‘subscribe’ to a channel focused on their favorite athlete and gain access to a constantly updated collection of videos featuring her or him.”