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Watching sports from a more videogame-like perspective could reinvent them

This article is part of a collaboration with iQ by Intel.

For the billion or so soccer fans around the globe, there is nothing quite like the sensation of watching a black-and-white checkered ball whoosh past a goalie’s outstretched arms into the back of the net. Televised sports are the most popular broadcasts on air for a reason: they electrify us. But what if we could change point-of-view, zooming in to see what the striker sees as he fakes left past the defender and scores with the kick? Well, uniforms equipped with wearable tech might amplify sports’ most adrenaline-soaked moments to frenzied new heights.

That is what Jose A. Ildefonso is banking on, at least. As CEO of the Barcelona-based First V1sion, Ildefonso wants to take the already-exciting moments of sports and make them exponentially more thrilling. To help with this, he has developed high-tech sports equipment that captures everything an athlete sees, and even feels—well, except for the bone-crushing pain, thankfully.

To the untrained eye, his form-fitting prototype looks similar to an Under Armour workout shirt you’d buy at Dick’s. However, this athletic wear is tricked out with wearable tech, including a front-facing camera, accelerometers, and biometric sensors that track heart rate. “This will introduce a new element into the game that improves the show,” he says, talking about how the camera and different gadgets will get you as close as humanly possible to the excitement without invading the pitch.

In the shaky-cam footage of an early First V1sion suit in action, we see the performance through the eyes of a high diver, a tennis player, a jockey riding a horse. Some of the clips look remarkably close to what you’d see when playing a videogame, and this bodes well for your adrenal glands. Games often show the game world from the point of view of your character, what game developers call “first-person perspective,” stimulating pretty strong feelings of immediacy and exhilaration as a consequence.

As close as humanly possible to the excitement without invading the pitch. 

There’s a psychological reason for this: it’s called spatial presence, and it means you begin to feel like you are there. For anecdotal evidence, look no further than the new edition of Grand Theft Auto V, whose most significant bell and whistle is how you can espy its fictionalized Los Angeles through your character’s hostile glare. Leaping from a plane without a parachute is a lot scarier when your brain is halfway tricked into momentarily believing it is actually happening to you, and not your character. If sports could tap into this sensation, even a tiny bit, excitement levels might blow off the roof.

Even if sports broadcasts never reach that elusive dream state of being inside the game, they still have a lot to gain from tech like First V1sion. In Ildefonso’s estimation, “the most important situations [will benefit most,] including the soccer penalty kick, a basketball free throw, a tennis match point, a celebration,” he says. “Imagine if you could see the point-of-view of the goalkeeper, and also the offensive player in a penalty kick. Imagine that you could see their heart rates, see who is more nervous.” If anything, it promises to give sports fans even bigger panic attacks.

And it shouldn’t be long until we start seeing wired uniforms in reality, either. Over the summer, some NFL teams began experimenting with full-contact helmets with cameras in them, and college football programs such as LSU and Clemson have started using them during practice. As for the First V1sion technology, it will be getting a trial run with the Córdoba Football Club this season. Wearable technology is already making inroads on the football pitch, and it’s only a matter of time before it changes the way we look at sports.