“Experience the Game through Touch: OneCourt’s Revolutionary Haptic Mini-Field for Blind Fans”

Sports fans most often take in their favorite game by watching it on TV or from the venue itself, but those with blind and low vision generally must rely on the announcer or a radio broadcast. OneCourt aims to augment their experience with a lap-top miniature field that lets someone feel the position of the players and ball in near real time. There’s nothing wrong with the radio broadcast, but it’s often delayed by 10 to 30 seconds, and neither it nor live announcers provide the spatial detail that sighted fans are treated to. Fortunately, many major league sports broadcast the exact, real-time locations of the players and ball along with video and audio. The OneCourt team takes this information and transmits it to a haptic display with a touchable cover imitating the pitch or field lines.

Sports fans are known for their passionate dedication to their favorite games, whether it be through watching it on television or attending the live event. However, for those with blindness or low vision, experiencing a game can be a challenge as they often have to rely solely on verbal commentary from announcers or radio broadcasts.

OneCourt is a company that aims to enhance the sports viewing experience for individuals with visual impairments by offering a miniature field that utilizes haptic technology, providing a near real-time feel for the position of players and the ball during a game.

At CES 2024 in Las Vegas, OneCourt showcased their innovation to the public. The team behind this groundbreaking technology consists of recent graduates from the University of Washington – and as a proud Huskies supporter, it must be mentioned to say, “Go Huskies!” Their main concern was addressing the lack of accessibility to current information for the visually impaired community.

While radio broadcasts are a reliable source of information for those with visual impairments, there is a delay of 10 to 30 seconds, and they do not provide the same level of spatial detail that sighted fans are accustomed to receiving.

Fortunately, many professional sports leagues broadcast real-time locations of players and the ball along with video and audio. OneCourt’s team utilizes this data and transmits it to their haptic display, featuring a touchable cover that mimics the lines and boundaries of the field.

I had the opportunity to test the battery-powered device at CES on a demo game set up by the OneCourt team. Placing my hands flat on the laptop-sized “field,” I could feel the vibrations shift around, providing a reasonable degree of accuracy for the movements of the quarterback, receiver, and ball. For example, I could tell when a player caught a pass and was running up the left side, but I would not be able to determine how close they were to the goal line.

The intensity and patterns of the vibrations signify different actions in the game, such as a snap, tackle, or other significant plays. This versatile technology can easily be adapted to other sports, as most use similar rectangular spaces and transmit player data.

OneCourt’s Chief Technical Officer, Andrew Buckingham, shared that they plan on offering these devices free of charge at venues, similarly to how subtitles or audio descriptions can be requested at movie theaters. This way, individuals with visual impairments can experience the excitement of the game in real-time, rather than relying on a recap or replay to understand the epic rush that caused the crowd’s uproar.

Buckingham also revealed that they have already received interest from people in the sports industry and are currently working towards raising a seed round over the next few months to advance the business and technology further.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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