Telstra ‘vision’ for AFL Blind fans



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Better experience for visually impaired fans at Marvel Stadium Image: AFL

Australian telecommunications company Telstra has recently announced a new project, designed to improve the gameday experience for the Australian Football League (AFL) fans that are visually impaired, using the power of 5G.

‘AFL’ stated that over 400,000 people in Australia are either blind or have low vision, and a third of Australians support an AFL Club. Telstra has developed the 5G Touch and Track prototype to create a more immersive, interactive and enjoyable experience so that no fan is left behind.

Melbourne (Australia)-based Telstra Corporation Limited is an Australian telecommunications company which builds and operates telecommunications networks and markets voice, mobile, Internet access, pay television, and other products and services. It is a member of the S&P/ASX 20 and Australia’s largest telecommunications company by market share.

Melbourne (Australia)-based the Australian Football League (AFL) is the pre-eminent and only fully professional competition of Australian Rules football. Through the AFL Commission, the AFL also serves as the sport’s governing body and is responsible for controlling the laws of the game.

‘AFL’ further stated that an Australian first, the 5G Touch and Track prototype was developed working in partnership with Field of Vision, a tech startup dedicated to transforming the way in which people who are blind or visually impaired enjoy sports.

The 5G-enabled tablet device translates live sports into a haptic experience, allowing fans who are visually impaired to track the onfield action with just their fingertips.

The speed and low latency of Telstra 5G enables the onfield action to be translated onto the tablet and felt in near realtime, which will really bring to life the live sport experience for vision impaired fans.

Commented Chris Harrop, Telstra Sports Technology Lead, “The number of people in Australia living with blindness or low vision is enough to fill Marvel Stadium more than six times. We want vision impaired fans to have access to the technology they need to bring a live AFL match to life, and we’re excited for the opportunities this project may bring. It’s all about the fans and we believe that 5G Touch and Track has the real potential to revolutionize the live sports experience at Marvel and beyond. Telstra and the AFL have been in business together for over 20 years and Telstra is now the technology and innovation partner for Marvel Stadium. We are currently piloting this technology at the stadium, and our ambition is to eventually offer the 5G Touch and Track to visually impaired fans at stadiums across the country.”

The 53,359-capacity Docklands Stadium, also currently known by naming rights sponsorship as the Marvel Stadium, is a multipurpose sports and entertainment stadium in the Docklands area of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Construction started in October 1997 and was completed in 2000 at a cost of A$460 million.

Carlton Football Club (professional Australian Rules football club) forward Corey Durdin added, “The 5G Touch and Track project is really important to me. I connect to it personally, as my sister Shianne is visually impaired. It would be fantastic for her to experience live sport in a similar way to other fans.”

Stated Shaun Keath, AFL Blind player and passionate Western Bulldogs (AFL team) supporter, “As a blind fan, live sound and commentary, no matter how detailed, doesn’t fully capture the intensity and excitement of a live game. It can also be incredibly isolating in a live sport environment when you’re amongst a crowd.”

Reflecting on his experience with the first 5G Touch and Track prototype, AFL Blind player and fan said it was “remarkable”.

Added Keath, “It’s something I thought would never be around in my time. It’s a game changer. It is going to make sport a lot more inclusive and accessible, it’s great for the community.”

Exulted Kylie Rogers, AFL Executive General Manager Customer and Commercial, “We’re so pleased to work with partners such as Telstra who are finding more and more ways to help our beloved AFL fans enjoy football. The 5G Touch and Track is so important in helping keep our game accessible and inclusive for all.”

Currently in the prototype stage, Telstra and the Field of Vision will continue to develop the 5G Touch and Track device with the ambition of producing a more refined product in the coming years. Working closely with supporters such as Vision Australia, AFL and AFL Blind, the user experience will be at the forefront of the prototyping process.

Vision Australia is a not-for-profit organization and Australia’s largest provider of services for people with blindness and low vision.

AFL Blind is a new adapted version of Australian Rules football which enables people with blindness or low vision, through modifications to equipment and rules, to play the great game.

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