How to manage crowds in stadiums after the COVID-19 break with Zack KLIMA (WaitTime)
How can we organise the return of fans to stadiums while encouraging social distancing? Zack Klima and WaitTime offers a solution to master crowd management during the post COVID-19 era.
Since the beginning of May, several sports leagues have resumed without any fans within the stands post Covid-19. As teams and leagues are preparing for a new season, there is a lot of debate about the return of fans in stadiums.
How could we make sure that fans are able to social distance at sports events post Covid-19? Zack Klima answered that question by presenting WaitTime in our podcast.
“WaitTime’s state-of-the-art, patented artificial intelligence leverages both a guest platform and an operator’s platform to observe, measure, and maximize the impact of the WaitTime system using real-time data and historical analysis.” – WaitTime website
Allow fans to enjoy the game at its fullest
Have you ever missed an important play because you left your place and were waiting in line at the food court. Zack Klima has! After that happened to him, he decided to create WaitTime: an AI-based solution that allows fans to see in realtime how crowded the food court, the restrooms or any area of the stadium is. Not only does WaitTime allow fans to enjoy more of the game but it also allow venues to improve their service.
Facilitate social distancing and make fans feel safe
The idea of bringing fans back in stadiums drives many questions. Will fans feel safe enough to go back to gatherings like sports events? How can make sure fans practice social distancing in stadiums? What if fans don’t stroll in the hallways of the stadium as they used to?
“WaitTime went from being a nice-to-have solution to a must-have” – Zack Klima, Founder of WaitTime
WaitTime tackles all of those problems. Before the COVID-19 crisis, allowing the audience to track busy places in real-time was a nice thing to do. It has now become a must.
After encountering much success in sports venues since 2014, WaitTime’s technology is now being used in major mainstream common areas like train stations and restaurants.
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Podcast: Gudjon GUDJONSSON, CEO of OZ Sports
Gudjon GUDJONSSON, the CEO of OZ Sports, joins us on this week’s podcast to discuss about OZ Arena: an augmented reality solution fo sports broadcasting to make fans any game look like the World Cup’s Final.
On today’s podcast, I am joined by Gudjon GUDJONSSON to talk about an augmented experience for games in empty stadiums.
Interview Gudjon GUDJONSSON, CEO of OZ Sports
(MT) Hello Gudjon, thank you very much for joining us today on the podcast. How are you doing today?
(GG) I am doing very good! Thank you for having me.
Could you please introduce yourself to the listener?
Yes. I am Gudjon GUDJONSSON, it is an icelandic name. I was born in Island but I have mostly lived in Europe and the US. I am currently running a company named OZ Sports.
You’re the CEO of a sports tech company named OZ Sports. Your main produt is the OZ Connected Stadium. Tell us more about what it does and who it is targeted to.
The Connected Stadium is mostly for soccer leagues but we can work with most stadium-based sports from fooball to basketball and ice hocker. When we start to work with leagues, they usually have 10 to 14 teams. What we do is that we install our system as a one-time set up at these stadiums. When we started the development of this solution in 2016, the philosophy was giving youth leagues the same experience as we can see in premium leagues.
The innovators at the companies are made of a lot of interesting developers including PhDs specialized on players and ball tracking, robotics. I gave the team a challenge: let a small youth league look like the World Cup Final. Over time we developped technologies relying on robotics and AI to make it possible. In the end, when we looked at these matches, we realized that the spectators were needed on these youth matches. So we built a technology to augment these games. We did some tests a few years ago with COMMEBOL, on the Copa America Feminine before the FIFA Women’s World Cup. We gave the women league an augmented experience that made it look like they were playing with as many spectators as the men’s World Cup Final.
This Augmented Reality solution is called OZ Arena. The main goal of that product is to recreate a visual environment that looks like the stadium is full and the crowd is cheering. Considering that most leagues will resume in empty stadium, OZ Arena could bring more energy to broadcasts.
With the pandemic, we decided to act. The rights holders and the broadcasters that have these rights but the experience is not the same in terms of making the experience appealing for sponsors and for the fans at home. We are offering rights holders to improve the exprience by offering fans to join in.
Fans sign up, they pick their seating area in the stadium and they pick their avatar. They can customize their avatar with the colors and the jersey of the club. Then they can appear in the stadium in the broadcast. The challenge in the broadcast is to start to augment it in a way that is as authentic as it can. We offer the fans at home to control their avatar and appear in the broadcast so that when you watch the game you can still have to 4,000 to 5,000 spectators in the broadcast. Fans can participate by shaking their phones and making the broadcast experience look great.
Fans can participate trought visual effects thank to their avatars. Can they be heard as well?
Yes, they can open up their mic on the phone. They can do their shouting and participate in the fan fair that way. We mix audio on our side to integrate it inthe broadcast when appropriate.
It is very interesting to know that they can react in real time to what happens in the stadium. It is the real added value compared to the use of recordings of past chants. How do you make fans join the experience? Do they come from a broadcaster’s website? From a team’s website? Or do they arrive directly on your portal?
When we work with a broadcaster, we offer them a very simple landing page that we install on the sub domain of the broadcaster. Before the match, the broadcaster will preset the augmented version and offer the fans to sign up and pick the seating and join in on the broadcast. We are more of a company behind the curtain. We supply the magic to make this happening. It is actually the broadcasters that present this to the fans.
It could happen that more fans try to connect than there are seats available in the stadium. How do you deal with that?
The capacity is limited. We are working on a first come first served basis. This is all about simulating reality and making the experience as authentic as possible. Even post pandemic, when fans come back to stadiums, we are still going to be using this technology in low-end leagues where we need to fill the stadiums. The interesting part with this new generation of the platform is that now we are augmented the avatars in the exisiting stadium whereas before we had a full stadium replacement solution. It is more authentic when you can appear in your favorite seat inside your favorite stadium, where you are used to go.
Who are you currently partnering with?
We are working with several partners but we have not anounced them yet. We have a lot of new partners these days. Those are very busy times.
I can only imagine! Especially now that most leagues are discussing imminent resuming of competition. How does the OZ Arena lives on after fans are allowed back inside of stadiums?
We are all about servicing second divisions and women’s leagues to give them the same experience as premium leagues. What we are doing now with the arenas is to really focus on the most premium leauges. After the pandemic, we will roll out those premium features to the second division. Our goal is really to make a youth tournament look like the Champions League. That’s our purpose as a company: bringning amazing technology to every leagues.
That brings a lot of added value. It makes games much more attractive to sponsors by making fans at home more engaged.
Thank you very much for joining us today Gudjon. Where can the listenners find our more about you and OZ Sports after this podcast?
Leagues and rights holders that have an interest in working with us can access us very easily through our website oz.com. We have more information there if leagues are interested to do something about the situation.
React to the pocast by leaving an voice note.
Check out more content about augmented fan experience: Hear Me Cheer: Bringing the Noise in Arenas
Check out more content in English.
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