Los Angeles Kings president Luc Robitaille had just seen the future.
It was a Stanley Cup playoff game in May, and the Kings were putting dizzying footage on their arena video screens, complete with 3D images of the players.
“It was really cool, actually,” the Hockey Hall of Fame said. “Guys were coming off the ice, getting changed. And our mascot was dancing on it while it was happening.”
“You had to do a kind of double take. It’s something different that nobody’s ever seen before. But as an organization we think it’s important to try new things.”
In this case, the novelty was the Metaverse, a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social interaction. Or, more specifically, bring the Kings into that new frontier by becoming the first NHL team to use volumetric technology to film their players.
The Kings teamed up with Tetavi, an Israel-based company, to create two videos showing the potential of immersive technology in the metaverse.
Tetavi took his portable production studio and set it up at the Kings practice rink in El Segundo one day in April. Los Angeles players, including Anže Kopitar, Phillip Danault, Adrian Kempe, Viktor Arvidsson, Trevor Moore and Alex Iafallo, skated in full gear as eight cameras filmed their moves. The same process was used to film Bailey, the Kings’ lion mascot, banging on a drum and dancing.
See how the Kings are innovating with new immersive technologies on their arena video screens.
In the past, this type of business would have required players to travel to a remote studio for an all-day shoot. The Kings marveled at how the Tetavi process took four hours from setup to filming on their practice rink. Especially because the players were in the midst of an intense playoff race.
Using the images and its machine learning technology, Tetavi built the player and mascot models in their studios. The final product was featured in the Kings’ playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers.
“It’s been a pleasure working with the players and Bailey to bring this in-game activation to life, and we have ambitious plans to drive engagement from Kings fans around the world,” said Tetavi CEO Gilad. Talmon. “This is a major step in our mission to democratize volumetric technology.”
The videos were played on the arena’s video screens rather than in a VR headset. They were just a taste of what volumetric capture can produce. But it wasn’t hard to imagine a fan immersing themselves in the Metaverse as players of 3D Kings swirled around them or as a growing army of Baileys pounded their drums around them.
“When they brought it to us, we thought it was an opportunity to create a different take on gaming entertainment and a different communication with fans,” Robitaille said.
He couldn’t help but imagine what might happen next.
“I see the potential for a post-game element where the fans can be next to the players,” he said. “You could see where we could create fun things where people are behind the bench or in the penalty area with the players. It would be a really fun part of the game that no one has ever seen before.”
The NHL is just dipping its collective toes into the Metaverse. As the Kings toyed with volumetric capture technology, the St. Louis Blues launched the NHL’s first Metaverse shopping experience. The Blues Experiential Reality offered an immersive metaverse experience accessible on any device, with a photorealistic 3D dressing room that served as a showroom for merchandise.
The league has worked with companies on ways to watch games using an Oculus headset using NHL puck and player tracking technology, and believes this is a gateway to more engagement. thrust into the metaverse.
Many NHL VR innovations are aimed at young fans.
“How can we create an additive experience for children at play?” Dave Lehanski, executive vice president of business development and innovation for the NHL, reflected during a technology showcase in New Jersey earlier this year. “What we want to do is take that experience and add things that people have never considered before.”
Robitaille has acknowledged this but doesn’t believe the technology alone will delight young fans. It must be worth their time.
“You would be lying if you said you weren’t trying to reach younger audiences,” Robitaille said. “But I think for us what’s important is trying something new and taking risks.
“If you do it right, people will get it. I’d rather it than a gimmick to get the kids in. These kids aren’t dumb. They know what’s cool. They buy Coachella [tickets] before you even know which bands are playing.”
The NHL expects there to be more forays into the Metaverse from teams this season, as they are curious about how the technology works and how it can be incorporated into their marketing and development plans. communication with fans.
Robitaille expects the Kings to continue to be one of those teams at the forefront of experimentation.
“When you come up with something, you can call the Los Angeles Kings and we’ll give it a try. I think that’s important,” he said.