Saturday, September 6, 2008

At ESPN, play-by-play goes virtual - HighTechno Stuff

SPN, the cable powerhouse that calls itself "Worldwide Leader in Sports," is looking to extend its domain in virtual worlds by merging video game graphics with real-life sports anchors.

The network, which is owned by Walt Disney, has spent the last year working on a new technology with Electronic Arts, the leading game publisher, that would enable ESPN commentators to interact live with realistic-looking, three-dimensional virtual players as they pontificate about coming matches during broadcasts.

"It's a way for us to remain relevant," said John Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president for content. "We want to make sure we remain connected to lots and lots of fans, and using the language that gamers understand is one way."

Boiled down, the complex technology, which will make its debut this Sunday on ESPN's popular NFL Countdown program, involves using an Electronic Arts' title--say, Madden NFL 09--with specialized digital-camera equipment in the studio. Presto: both real and virtual people move around the ESPN set to demonstrate plays and possible situations.

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