Intel Buys 3D Video Startup Replay Technologies

The two companies showed off Replay's freeD technology running on Intel's platform during NBA All-Star Weekend events in February.

Intel sports

Intel is taking another step into the realm of 3D video with the planned acquisition of Replay Technologies, a five-year-old Israeli company that the chip maker has been working with since 2013 to bring its immersive and interactive video capabilities to the Intel Architecture.

Intel announced early March 9 that it had signed an agreement to buy Replay, a move that would expand the company’s growing reach into such areas as 3D video and possibly virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

No financial details were released, though Israeli news outlets put the deal at about $175 million.

Intel officials said the move was another example of the growing trends being fueled by the rapid growth of data and the drive to find more ways to collect, store, analyze and interact with it. It's part of what Intel CEO Brian Krzanich is calling the digitization of sports. Replay's technology was on display at the recent NBA All-Star Weekend events Feb. 12-14, where the smaller company used Intel's latest 6th generation Core processors and server technologies to power its "free dimensional"—or freeD—video rendering technology to create 3D video of the basketball court for people viewing on TV and online.

"Nearly every business is being revolutionized by data and the ability to capture, connect, analyze and interact with it," Wendell Brooks, senior vice president of Intel and president of Intel Capital, the chip maker's investment arm, wrote in a post on the company blog. "One example that Intel is especially excited about is how data is re-inventing the way people consume and interact with sports media."

According to Brooks, Replay used 28 ultra-high-definition cameras that were put around the basketball court and were connected to servers running Intel chips. According to the Replay Website, the freeD technology uses data algorithms to create 3D pixels of the area being shot that can build the scene in real time. The results were seamless 360-degree views of the action on the court, including during the slam dunk contest.

The technology reportedly also was used during the NFL's Super Bowl, and Replay on its site offers customer testimonials from NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball teams, as well as CBS Sports.

"Together, we will scale this new category for sports entertainment that we call immersive sports, which is attracting the attention of leagues, venues, broadcasters and fans," Intel's Brooks wrote. "Immersive sports requires the high-performance computing Intel is known for, and it's also data driven—fueling the continued build out of the cloud. For athletes, coaches, broadcasters and fans, the ability to capture, analyze and share data adds compelling new dimensions to the game."

Intel has been working for several years to marry its high-performance processors with emerging 3D video technologies. The chip maker's portfolio includes the 3D RealSense camera technology, which can be used in PCs and other devices to bring new viewing experiences. At the same time, some drone makers are using Intel's RealSense in their machines to help them avoid collisions while in the air.

Intel engineers reportedly also are using RealSense in a prototype headset they're developing that offers AR capabilities similar to what Microsoft is looking to do with its HoloLens product.