As the United States continues to grapple with social distancing requirements and mask mandates, sports organizations are beginning to build a 2020 sporting season without fans in the stands. While athletes themselves might be forced to get used to empty stands - unless they're in South Korea - fans at home will be able to experience FOX Sports broadcasts featuring the energy and excitement of virtual fans.
No fans? Not on FOX Sports.
Thousands of virtual fans will attend FOX’s MLB games this Saturday.
- @FOXSports - July 23, 2020
Beginning with this Saturday's MLB games, FOX Sports will be filling the stands with thousands of virtual fans that will cheer, boo, flock to catch a home run ball, and even do "the wave". While the platform and technology being used to create these digital sports fans has not been detailed in full, the worlds of virtual reality and augmented reality have experienced breakthroughs in recent years that are promising to revolutionize the way that people experience the world in their everyday lives.
In the world of sports, many of these technology-driven changes being built to shape the virtual sports experiences of the future can be tied back to gaming. Earlier this year, the Premiere League confirmed that, with fans unable to attend matches in-person this season, sounds included in FIFA would be used to simulate fan excitement and provide ambience for the at-home audience.
While medical professionals work towards finding long-term solutions to combat COVID-19, it seems that the world of sports broadcasts is turning to technology to keep fans entertained, engaged, and connected with their teams. Plans for the 2021 season are likely already in the works, but teams will have to make do by connecting with their fans online in the meantime.