Telstra's New Prototype Could Bring Vision Impaired AFL Fans Closer – Gizmodo Australia


Telstra has revealed a new device aimed at AFL fans with blindness and low vision: a sensory tablet called the 5G Touch and Track that tracks the game and translates kicks, goals and where the ball is on the field.
The “5G Touch and Track” tablet was developed in partnership with Field of Vision and is a prototype at the moment. The ideas is simple: to bring the excitement of AFL to a sensory, haptic tablet with rumbles and vibrations that translate to actions in the match.
Tactile, haptic feedback tablets aren’t a new innovation, but this is new for the AFL.
Before you think that this might be too niche a device, keep in mind that some 575,000 people in Australia are blind or have low vision. Additionally, keep in mind the millions of AFL fans across the country.
“The number of people in Australia living with blindness or low vision is enough to fill Marvel Stadium more than six times,” said Chris Harrop, the technology lead at Telstra Sports.
“We want vision impaired fans to have access to the technology they need to bring a live AFL match to life, and we’re excited for the opportunities this project may bring. It’s all about the fans and we believe that 5G Touch and Track has real potential to revolutionise the live sports experience at Marvel and beyond.”
As you can see in the above video, the actions of the game are translated through to the tablet: the ball (more of a ring) is moved around as a magnet, with vibrations indicating the match activity.
The person using the tablet would place their fingertip on the ball and follow it as it moves around the field.
How does it do this? Using 5G, no less. The demonstration in the video takes place at Marvel Stadium (no stranger to Telstra’s tech), which has access to Telstra’s 5G network. It’s likely that, using 5G, the actions on the field are translated at the stadium, which are then fed to the device as haptic sensations.
It’s not a complete solution on its own, but Telstra says it’s meant to “augment” current options like audio commentary.
“As a blind fan, live sound and commentary, no matter how detailed, doesn’t fully capture the intensity and excitement of a live game,” said Shaun Keath, an AFL Blind player.
“It’s [the Telstra 5G Touch and Track] something I thought would never be around in my time. It’s a game changer. It is going to make sport a lot more inclusive and accessible; it’s great for the community.”
It’s still in the prototype stage, but Telstra and Field of Vision are continuing to work on it, hoping to have a more refined product “in the coming years”, one that may eventually be available at stadiums for people with blindness or low vision to use.
Zachariah Kelly is a writer at Gizmodo Australia.
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