What’s next for the NHL and the Metaverse?

What’s next for the NHL and the Metaverse?


President of the Los Angeles Kings Luc Robitaille. He had seen the future.

It was a Stanley Cup playoff game in May, and the Kings were putting up some scary images with 3D images of the players on their arena video screens.

“It was really great,” the Hockey Hall of Famer said. “The guys were coming off the ice, they were changing. And while that was happening, our dance was on top of them.”

“You had to do a double take. It’s something different that no one has seen before. But as an organization, we feel it’s important to try new things.”

In this case, the novelty was the Metaverse, a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social interaction. Or, more specifically, bringing the Kings to that new frontier by becoming the first NHL team to use volumetric technology to shape their players.

The Kings teamed up with an Israeli company called Tetavi to produce two videos showcasing immersive technology in the Metaverse.

Tetavi took his portable production studio and set it up one day in April at the Kings’ practice field in El Segundo. Los Angeles players, as Anzi Kopitar, Philip Danault., Adrian Kempe, Victor Arvidson, Trevor Moore And Alex Ifalo, they skated in full gear as eight cameras filmed their movements. The same process was used to film Bailey, the Kings’ lion mascot, drumming and dancing.

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See how the Kings are innovating with exciting new technology on their arena video screens.

In the past, players of this type of venture would head to a remote studio to spend the whole day filming. The Kings were surprised to see how Thetavi’s process, from preparation to filming, took four hours at their training ground. Especially since the players were in the top playoffs.

Tetavi built models of the players and the mechs in their studios using the casting and machine-learning technology. The final product was seen during the Kings’ playoff game against the Edmonton Oilers.

“It’s been a pleasure working with the players and Bailey to bring this in-game experience to life, and we have big plans to expand engagement for Kings fans around the world,” said Gilad Talmon, CEO of Tetavi. “This is a big step in our mission to democratize volumetric technology.”

The videos were shown on arena video screens rather than on VR headsets. Volumetric recording was only a taste of what they could produce. But it wasn’t hard to imagine a fan immersing himself in the metaverse as 3D Kings players raced around them, or an expanding army of Baileys.

“When they brought us on, we thought it was a different vision for gaming entertainment and an opportunity to create a different relationship with fans,” Robitaille said.

He couldn’t imagine what would come next.

“I see the potential for a postgame element where the fans can be next to the players,” he said. “With people behind the bench or in the penalty box with players, you can see where we can create interesting things. It will be the most exciting part of the game that nobody has ever seen before.”

The NHL is dipping its collective toes into the Metaverse. While the Kings played with audio recording technology, the St. Louis Blues launched the NHL’s first Metaverse shopping experience. Blues Experiential Reality features an immersive Metaverse experience accessible on any device, featuring a 3D photorealistic locker room that doubles as a merchandise showroom.

The league is working with companies on ways to watch games using Oculus headsets using the NHL’s puck and player tracking technology, which it believes is a gateway to greater participation in the Metaverse.

Many of the NHL’s VR innovations are aimed at younger fans.

“How can we create more experiences for kids in the game?” Dave Lehansky, the NHL’s executive vice president of business development and innovation, reflected at a tech show in New Jersey earlier this year. What we want to do is take this experience and add something that people haven’t thought of before.

Robitaille admits that, but doesn’t believe technology alone will impress young fans. Their time should be valuable.

“You’d be lying if you said you didn’t try to reach a younger audience,” Robitaille said. “But for us, the important thing is to try new things and take risks.

“If you’re doing it right, people will want it. I’d rather have it than some gimmick to get the kids in. Those kids aren’t stupid. They know what’s good. They buy Coachella.” [tickets] Before they even knew which bands were playing.

The NHL expects there to be other moves into Metaverse from teams this season, as they look to learn how the technology works and how it can integrate with their marketing and fan communications plans.

Robitaille expects Kings to remain one of the teams at the vanguard of testing.

“When they come up with something, call the LA Kings and we’ll try. I think that’s important,” he said.

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