Institutional | 27 FEB 2019

Artificial Intelligence and VAR take centre stage during LaLiga Innovation Showcase at the Mobile World Congress

RCD Espanyol de Barcelona Stadium home to interactive LaLiga showcase in collaboration with Mediapro

LaLiga presented some of its most recent technologies during an interactive showcase on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona revealing, in collaboration with Mediapro, some of the latest innovations behind Spanish football.

The LaLiga Innovation Showcase at the RCD Espanyol de Barcelona stadium focused on artificial intelligence, the technology that makes VAR possible, as well as technological advances in audio-visual broadcasting and the evolution of Virtual Reality.

“More than ever before, a football match is a unique experience thanks to recent technological advances which have improved the standing of Spanish clubs, the professionalism of its technical bodies, as well as the fan experience,” says Joris Evers, LaLiga’s Chief Communications Officer.

“VAR has become the protagonist of each football match, enabling more even-handed referee decisions, adding prestige to our league, and more drama and new experiences for our fans, whilst making use of the most innovative tools," says Evers.

"At a time when there is much talk about artificial intelligence and machine learning, LaLiga is demonstrating its leadership as we start to use these technologies to optimize scheduling of our matches," added Evers.

Calendar Selector/Sunlight Broadcasting Planning

Optimizing TV viewership and stadium attendance using Artificial Intelligence is the objective of “Calendar Selector.” This new tool used by LaLiga applies machine learning and algorithms to suggest optimal match schedules. The application, located in the Cloud, takes into account historical viewing and attendance data and about 70 additional variables.

Alongside this application, LaLiga has started using “Sunlight” software. This is a complementary technology to the Calendar Selector, which predicts the natural light conditions for each match. This program indicates the areas of sun and shade in the stadium, revealing how the sun will affect the television image, fans and players, and also help with match scheduling. To achieve this, LaLiga uses 3D reconstructions of stadiums. 

Video Assistant Referee (VAR)

VAR uses audio-visual technology to help referees avoid clear and obvious errors regarding goals, penalties, direct red cards and identity confusion. Together with technology provider EVS and the official producer of the competition, Mediapro, LaLiga has shown how the multi-angle review tool Xeebra offers referees the most accurate technology for making decisions on the field. In addition, the built-in artificial intelligence accurately calibrates the playing field to allow the insertion of graphic overlays to support decision making.

During the first 19 match days of LaLiga Santander, totalling 190 matches, the VAR system reviewed 2,280 incidents, after which the referee modified his final decision on 59 different occasions. In total, VAR averaged 3.2 interventions per match.

Mediacoach

LaLiga also uses cutting-edge innovations to provide its clubs with valuable tools aimed at improving the performance of teams and players. Mediacoach is the suite of advanced tools and match analysis services, developed in conjunction with Mediapro, which LaLiga makes available to the coaching staff of all teams in order to analyse in depth the characteristics of the game, before, during, and after each match.

This tool also helps to improve audio-visual broadcasting. In this regard, this year’s technology includes the intelligent detection of the ball’s position on the pitch. The movement of the ball is used to locate precisely, and in real time, where the action of the game is. Ambient microphones distributed around the stadium are automatically activated to give more realism to the sound of the broadcast and bring the action closer to viewers. No other football league has a platform like Mediacoach with such an advanced suite of tools, which also includes for the first time a set of services and specific guidelines for referees.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Mediapro's R&D teams, together with LaLiga, are experimenting with Virtual Reality (VR) technology. During this edition of LaLiga's Innovation Showcase, attendees were able to enjoy through the Samsung Gear headset, recaps of the 2018-19 season in 3D (Stereoscopic) virtual reality.

Five 360º cameras allow the spectator to watch from their seat, just as they would if they were in the stadium. They would be able to see the arrival of fans and players, the changing rooms, the stadium, as well as the exit to the pitch - a truly unique user experience.

LaLiga is now using this type of VR experience on a regular basis, for example in LaLiga Corners, an innovative experiential space which is situated in four El Corte Ingles centres across Spain.

Replay360

LaLiga has pioneered the use of Replay360, the technology that allows you to recreate 3D replays of any move and give viewers around the world a unique perspective from any angle. 38 cameras installed throughout the stadium allow spectators to fly over the action or even position themselves from the point of view of a player. Six LaLiga stadiums already have this technology, and more will receive it for next season.

• Season 17-18 four stadiums: FC Barcelona (Camp Nou), Real Madrid (Santiago Bernabeu), Atlético de Madrid (Wanda Metropolitano), Sevilla FC (Ramon Sánchez Pijuan)

• Season 18-19 two additional stadiums: Athletic Club de Bilbao (San Mamés), Valencia CF (Mestalla)

• Season 19-20 two additional stadiums: Real Sociedad (Anoeta), Betis (Benito Villamarin)

Bixby 

Coinciding with the recent announcement of Bixby, Samsung's artificial intelligence platform, and its presentation at the MWC, LaLiga has presented its intelligent virtual assistant, which seeks to improve contact with fans, offering them as much information as possible through voice and text.

Thanks to the use of Artificial Intelligence and cognitive services, fans can use voice and text on multiple devices to get all the information about the competition and the clubs, such as schedules, classification, results, statistics of players and even videos of the most outstanding plays.

The goal is to make the LaLiga assistant available on all major chatbots and virtual wizards.

© LaLiga - Year 2019

Speaking about: LaLiga