Intel, OradNet kick off 3D soccer online

Called ToPlay Soccer, the system lets fans watch a game by choosing from multiple camera angles or by focussing on specific players. They can also watch the game from field-level as if they were seeing it through a player's eyes, and watch replays in slow motion, the companies said.

The system works by capturing the image of a soccer game through a standard camera, and then translating that image into a graphical rendering that's stored in a database. The information in the database is requested by users via a standard Web browser, and delivered to them using the XML (extensible markup language) programming language.

The companies plan to license the technology to individual soccer teams, broadcast companies and others, who will offer it to users from their Web sites. It takes providers about 24 hours to convert a full, 90-minute game of soccer into the 3D format, though a 20 second clip can be converted in less than an hour, the companies said.

Providers that offer the service can generate extra revenue by placing clickable banners around the field or putting a brand name on the pitch, much as soccer teams raise money at real stadiums.

ToPlay Soccer was unveiled Wednesday at the Sports Business 2001 conference in London. Users will be able to try the service starting 30 April from OradNet's Web site, officials said.

The system makes use of Intel's Internet 3-D technology, which helps reduce the amount of bandwidth needed to view graphics over the Web by making a PC's processor do more of the work, removing the stress from a user's Internet connection. The technology works over a standard 56kbs Internet connection, Intel has said. Internet 3-D was unveiled just last week and developed by Intel and Macromedia. "I think the first companies to look at this will be the online arm of broadcasters, like ESPN.com," said Danielle Levitas, a program manager for research company IDC. "But it will take a little bit of time and work before it catches on," she added.

One issue to be addressed is how to bill customers for the service, she said.

Soccer has worldwide appeal, although it's not one of the most popular sports in the US, where the Web service might take longer to catch on, she noted. "It has limited appeal in the US, which is where PC penetration is the highest."

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