Telstra unveils 5G Touch and Track prototype: a new way for vision impaired Australians to experience live AFL – Telstra Exchange

By Chris Harrop September 14, 2022
This footy finals season, we’re demonstrating how 5G technology and the power of our network can bring the magic of near real-time sporting action to Australia’s vision impaired audience.
Watch an audio described version of this video by clicking here.
Over half a million Australians are blind or have low vision[1], and it’s estimated that more than half the population has some form of vision disorder[2]. Having low vision doesn’t stop you loving or playing sport – or being a die-hard fan of a club, like Western Bulldogs supporter Shaun – but it can change how you experience it as a fan.
As a person who is blind, Shaun’s experience of AFL games comes mostly through sound, using headphones to listen to commentary and game sounds to visualise what’s happening on the field.
We want to all fans to have access to the technology they need to bring a live AFL match to life. We wanted to explore how technology, underpinned by the speed and responsiveness of our 5G mobile network, could add a new element to the AFL game day that would help people with low vision experience more of the game than they already do.
We’ve been working with the team from Field of Vision and our Telstra Labs team to create a new experience for vision impaired AFL fans, using innovative technology that translates the movement of the ball on-field to a physical device. Using a magnet that moves inside the body of the device, as the Sherrin is kicked and handballed around the oval, a steel ring on the surface moves precisely to where the ball is on the playing field.
With 5G’s near real-time responsiveness, the movement of the ball now matches the roar of the crowd in the background. The physical tablet device is 3D printed with the layout of the field debossed into it – that’s the opposite of embossing, which creates the raised bumps of the Braille alphabet you might be familiar with, or the raised letters on a bank card.
The combination of a debossed playing field and tactile steel ring helps a vision impaired person ‘see’ the action on-field through their sense of touch. As the ball is run and passed around the field, the ring tracks its every motion. As it’s kicked, the fast movement of the ring will match the intensity of noise from the field and the fans – especially if that kick turns into a goal.
Telstra has been working with the AFL for over 20 years, more recently as the technology partner for Marvel Stadium in Melbourne’s Docklands. We’ve already installed our best 5G tech in the stadium and mapped the stadium out digitally to improve the fan experience. This means more fans can use their devices at the same time with less interruption – if you’ve been to a packed-out stadium you know the difference this can make.
We’re proud to have a long-standing association with the AFL, and we look forward to collaborating on more projects like this in the future. It’s our job to connect and bring people closer, and we know that there’s a lot of potential for sport and technology to work together and make this happen.
If you want to learn more about playing sports as a blind or vision impaired person, you can start with Blind Sports Australia, Blind Sports NSW, Blind Sports VIC or the Victorian Blind Football League (also known as AFL Blind). The AFL’s Disability Inclusion program also includes Wheelchair Aussie Rules and AllPlay Footy for kids with disabilities.
Things you need to know
[1] A snapshot of blindness and low vision in Australia – Vision 20/20 Australia
[2] 13 million Australians have a vision disorder and females have higher prevalence – Optometry Australia
Product Owner, Sport – Telstra
Chris joined Telstra in 2016 and has worked closely with our sporting partners on digital products and strategy in that time. In his role, Chris has been able to work at the intersection of sport, technology and entertainment. This has enabled him to work on a wide range of fan experiences from live streaming to AR/VR. Prior to Telstra, Chris worked in TV production and digital services at the ABC. When he is not working, Chris enjoys spending time with his family and watching even more sport.


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