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Telstra unveils Australian-first 5G innovation for visually impaired AFL fans at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium

Telstra unveils Australian-first 5G innovation for visually impaired AFL fans at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium
September 14, 2022

Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium has joined with commercial partner Telstra and the AFL to trial new technology which aims to enhance the game-day experience for fans who are visually impaired.

An Australian first, the 5G Touch and Track prototype was developed working in partnership with Field of Vision, a technology start-up dedicated to transforming the way in which people who are blind or visually impaired enjoy sports.

The 5G-enabled tablet device translates live sports into a haptic (touch-based) experience, allowing fans who are visually impaired to track the on-field action by using their fingertips on a physical tablet device. Using a magnet that moves inside the body of the device, as the ball is kicked and handballed around the pitch, a steel ring on the surface moves precisely to show the location of the ball.

With 5G’s near real-time responsiveness, the movement of the ball through the device 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 - the opposite of embossing, which creates the raised bumps of the Braille alphabet.

Introducing the technology, Telstra Sports Technology Lead, Chris Harrop stated "the number of people in Australia living with blindness or low vision is enough to fill Marvel Stadium more than six times.

“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.

"Telstra and the AFL have been in business together for over 20 years and Telstra is now the technology and innovation partner for Marvel Stadium. We are currently piloting this technology at the stadium, and our ambition is to eventually offer the 5G Touch and Track to visually impaired fans at stadiums across the country."

In December 2020, the AFL announced that Marvel Stadium would become one of the world’s most technologically connected and innovative sports and entertainment venues, under a new deal with telecommunications company Telstra.

Currently in the prototype stage, Telstra and Field of Vision will continue to develop the 5G Touch and Track device with the ambition of producing a more refined product in the coming years. Working closely with supporters such as Vision Australia, AFL and AFL Blind, the user experience will be at the forefront of the prototyping process.

Over 400,000 people in Australia are either blind or have low vision, and a third of Australians support an AFL Club. Telstra has developed the 5G Touch and Track prototype to create a more immersive, interactive, and enjoyable experience so that no fan is left behind.

Images showing fans using the haptic device. Credit: Telstra.

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