What you need to know
- NBA games will have fans virtually appear on 17-foot tall screens.
- The fans will appear through the power of Microsoft Teams Together Mode.
- Fans will be able to react in real time, and the players can see those reactions.
Microsoft and the NBA announced the first fruits of their recently announced partnership. During the NBA's return, Microsoft Teams will be used to virtually place fans in the stands. The NBA courts will be surrounded by 17-foot tall LED screens around the entire arena.
The experience will give the players a bit more of a normal view, or as normal as a ring of fans floating on screens can be. Fans can react to games in real time and those reactions will appear on the screens. In addition to the Teams experience, fans can virtually cheer using the NBA app. These cheers will appear as animations on video boards at the games.
What drives the experience is Microsoft Teams Together Mode, a recently announced feature that places people in a meeting into a joint virtual environment. When Microsoft launched the feature earlier this week, its example was a classroom full of students but it's versatile enough to adapt to NBA games.
"This new experience—the first to go live as a result of the NBA / Microsoft partnership — gives participating fans the feeling of sitting next to one another at a live game without leaving the comfort and safety of their homes," says Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365. He also adds, "Players, meanwhile, will experience their energy and support as they dribble down the court and see fans' real-time reaction. And viewers tuning into the game from home will feel the crowd's energy as well as they see the virtual stands filled with fans."
The Verge reached out to Microsoft to find out how people will be screened to appear virtually during the games, but Microsoft has not provide an answer at this time.
The NBA is set to resume on July 30th, though exhibition games have already started. The NBA and other sports leagues are trying to give some sense of normalcy to games played during unique circumstances.
When the NBA and Microsoft penned an agreement earlier this year, the people at the organizations probably didn't foresee gigantic screens utilizing Microsoft Teams, but it's an interesting use of the technology during such strange times.