The NFL has always been a sport where the latest technology is used to great effect. From the instant replay process to the use of analytics to help improve an individual player’s performance, the sport has always been quick to embrace new technologies. But one team that has taken a particular shine to all things hi-tech is the Baltimore Ravens. Their love for technology and its implementation on the football field is breaking new boundaries.
Here’s a look at how they’ve embraced technology so far and how it could affect the rest of the NFL.
VR and mixed reality on the football field
If you watch the NFL at all then there’s a good chance that you’ve seen the Baltimore Ravens’ mixed reality raven that appears on the large screens at the match. It’s a clever use of the mixed reality that wows fans as they see a huge raven swooping over the stadium and even perching on the goalposts. The incredible bird was created by Raven’s productions in tandem with The Famous Group who create unique fan experiences.
But interestingly, the Ravens have also found time to develop a VR program that helps the team train. Their one-year deal with Mixed River saw the team have access to player simulations that took their training regime to the next level. It’s something a little like Facebook Spaces but with a lot more grunt.
The software allowed the players to watch simulations of their plays in holographic form. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie set decades in the future, but this was three years ago. The Ravens squad could watch their holographic counterparts run through plays straight from their playbook. Not only that but they themselves could interact with and react to the VR team.
The scenes were played out in real-time giving the team a chance to experience practice without the risk of injury or the practice roster not being up to the standards of their opponents. This ability to limit injury on the practice field is something not to be sneezed at and, although we’ve yet to see this technology truly take off with other teams, it’s only a matter of time before it does. Injuries on the playing field, particularly head injuries, are a hot topic right now and we’re quite surprised that VR isn’t more widespread at this point.
As the deal with Mixed River was only a one-year contract, it’s not clear whether the team is still using the technology or have opted to find another supplier. Either way, it was a groundbreaking move that has set a precedent in terms of player safety.
A step too far
This season has been a pretty good one for the Ravens. Despite their shock loss to the Titans in the playoffs, the team has been doing pretty well beating the Seahawks, the Patriots, and the 49ers in the regular season. But there are rumors that this upturn in results may have been helped by some tech that’s not what you would call legal.
It was suggested by some that the coaching staff used Bluetooth headsets during some of their matches such as the game vs. the Rams. They were odds on favorites to win this game anyway and the scoreline of 6-45 would suggest that even without Bluetooth, the Ravens had the beating of the Rams in hand.
Now the thing about Bluetooth tech is that it’s banned for the coaching staff. It’s seen as giving an unfair advantage to the team using it and teams caught using it are fined heavily. The official line is that the person seen wearing the earpiece was working security but nevertheless, it’s still pushing the rules to their limits.
The Ravens also have formed in bending the rules. During the 2018 season, they were fined $200,000 for using multiple communication devices in players’ helmets. As it stands, only one player can have a direct link to the coaching staff but several players having lines of communication is a serious breach of the rules.
It seems the Ravens’ love for technology knows no bounds!
Tech updates for the fans
But their love of tech isn’t just limited to the field. Fans have also seen the benefits of the team embracing digital technology. Back in 2018, the Ravens announced new digital technologies that would help fans stay connected to their team and have easy access to team-centric content.
They launched a video streaming app that gives fans access to the Baltimore Raven library of video content. It also includes live shows that interview players, preview games, and analyze previous performances.
At the same time, they launched an Alexa app for the avid Raven’s fan. This app allows fans to ask Alexa for news on the Ravens. Alexa will then provide an instant overview of the latest news regarding the team. They hope that this will become part of every fan’s daily routine and bring an already passionate fan base even closer to the team.
Getting back to VR, the Ravens were one of the first teams to have virtual reality tours in place for fans. These tours would take you down the tunnel, into the changing rooms, and onto the field. Best of all though was the chance to attend one of the practice sessions as if you were actually there with the team. Pretty incredible stuff if you’re a fan.
They also brought augmented reality into the stadium and onto the Ravens app. This allowed fans to play around with face painting and share their creations on social media. The team even used the technology to find fans in the stadium, paint their faces, and put it on the large screen for all to see.
As you can see, when it comes to technology, the Ravens really know how to make use of all that is available to them. And with their history for breaking new ground, we’re eager to see what they have planned in the coming years for both fans and the team itself.