Monday, November 14, 2011

Pepsi - The Sound Of Football

Technology spurs creativity, creativity spurs technology.  We hear that all the time & the fact is that great things can happen at the intersection of the two.  Such is the case with The Sound Of Football, the latest initiative that's part of the Pepsi Refresh project (the much discussed worldwide social initiative that encourages and funds innovative ideas).  The Sound Of Football is the result of a collaboration between Akestam Holst, Society46, & Tracab and combines real-time tracking technology with 3D sound to invent a new way for visually impaired people to play football.  A bit of background:

Today, blind football is played with bells in the ball and on the player’s legs. The goalkeeper can see and shout out instructions to the other players on the pitch - a relatively basic method with obvious limitations. The basis for the solution in The Sound of Football was found in military tracking technology.
With the technology, you can track the position of all players, the ball, the goals and other things on the football pitch in real time. All coordinates are passed on to each player through an iPhone app and the information is converted to 3D sound. Each player will hear different sounds depending on where they are on the pitch and if, for instance, the ball, a player, sideline or goal is nearby.

Akestam Holst then arranged a football match between a team of visually impaired players and a team of former professional footballers. The goal was to see how the teams performed under equal conditions, in a match where no one can see.  Using the tracking technology in conjunction with a specialized iPhone app, iPhones were mounted to the head of each player along with blackout googles for the sighted players to level the playing field.  The app then feeds stereo audio cues as to where other players, the ball, and the goals are.  See the demo below in terms of how the audio aspect works (note, headphones recommended).

This technology isn't just for footballers & Aksetam Holst has already been exploring whether the same technology can help visually impaired people in large public spaces such as train stations.  The ultimate goal is to create a pervasive technology that allows visually impaired people to "see" with sound.  The general public are also encouraged to submit ideas of what can be done with the technology via the Sound Of Football website.

Regardless, it's worth heading over to the Sound Of Football Youtube channelwebsite or Facebook page to see more about the project and additional videos from the people involved in the creation and execution of the project as well as the footballers involved (both sighted and visually impaired).

Supporting Articles: Fast Company | Contagious | Popsop