With the COVID-19 outbreak resulting in the 2019-2020 professional basketball season being played without audience members, the NBA has partnered with Microsoft to give fans virtual courtside seats.
The start of the 2019-2020 basketball season is just around the corner, but unfortunately, no fans are allowed to set foot in the stadium to watch the game because of the coronavirus risk such a gathering would pose. Instead, the NBA has partnered with Microsoft to create a digital courtside experience for fans using Microsoft Teams.
Together mode is a new tech that "uses AI segmentation technology to bring people together into a shared background like a conference room, coffee shop, or arena." It will give people the illusion of being in the stands together, therefore being to able cheer collectively.
Players will also be able to enjoy having this digital audience, as the NBA will equip each game court with "17-foot-tall LED screens that wrap three sides of the arena" in place of fan-filled stands. 300 people will be displayed in virtual seats on these screens surrounding the game. Those not pictured will still be able to watch a live feed of the match within the Teams platform.
The organization and tech giant took inspiration from Denmark's Aarhus Gymnastikforening soccer league, which invited 10,000 fans to watch a match via Zoom, with their digital selves placed on a virtual grandstand.
This year's basketball season is scheduled to kick off on July 30 in Orlando.