MLB, NTT test Ultra Reality Viewing during playoff game

Major League Baseball and Japanese technology giant NTT on October 7 conducted the first-ever US test of the company’s Ultra Reality Viewing. 

Marking the first direct outgrowth of the pair’s three-year partnership struck last month, the proof-of-concept test involved a private screening of a Houston Astros-Tampa Bay Rays playoff game in the enhanced format.

The Ultra Reality Viewing technology involves stitching together multiple live 4K camera images into a single 180-degree image. The private screening, held at MLB Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey, displayed the game on a super-wide video screen 39 feet wide by seven and a half feet tall. That expansive view, combined with a fixed camera angle stationed along the first base side of Tampa’s Tropicana Field, allowed viewers to see the entire playing field in a single image. 

The immersiveness of the technology, combined with the natural ballpark sound of the game instead of an announcer-led audio track, is designed to much more closely simulate the feeling of being present at a game compared to traditional broadcasts.

“[Ultra Reality Viewing] is a very new type, a new generation, of public viewing technology,” said Jun Sawada, NTT chief executive, upon announcing the MLB partnership. “Viewers can enjoy [games] as if they were in their stadiums. This is a new type of technology solution we’ll contribute to the extending of the fan experience.”

The US test effort, following several prior deployments of the technology in Japan, is designed as a potential forerunner toward wider deployments during the 2020 season. But no specific distribution plans have been made yet, and any public airing of the games in the format would require a supplemental agreement involving the league and its existing media rightsholders. 

The large screen size required to take full advantage of the technology will also likely make any consumer-facing deployments focused on communal viewing environments as opposed to at-home applications. MLB’s partnership with NTT is its first such agreement with a Japanese company for the US market.