To see with sound

Recently my love of David Beckham grew even stronger following his involvement in a partially sighted football training session in the latest Sainsbury’s advert. Advert or not, there is something enduring about people continuing their passion for football whatever the circumstances, with DB limbering around the pitch being an obvious bonus. However, this Pepsi Refresh project kicks Sainsbury’s out of the football arena, with this staggering technological feat – a system that allows blind football players the ability to ‘see’ with sound, and a partially sighted football team to draw 1-1 to a side of ex-footballing professionals. Although to both sides, the use of the technology and listening to the great game appared to draw parallels to the world of science fiction – moving to different beeps and tones would get me running in the direction of the sidelines.

The event took place in Sweden (hence the mysterious, awkwardly subtitled accent) following a collaboration between Stockholm Ad agency Akestam Holst, creative technology experts Society46, The Swedish Association of Visually Impaired Youth and the now godlike Pepsi Refresh team – you must admire how much “refresh” features in the mini documentary, although I do like the football shirts. The system relied on TRACAB 3D tracking technology (that originally used in fighter planes – a bit of a “how’s that” for technological prowess), which was used to capture data on players’ positions, how far they have run, and so forth. This is then transformed somewhat miraculously into a surround-sound landscape or a binaural 3D sounds (no doubt is as complicated as it sounds), which then enables participants to identify and locate other players, the goal, the sidelines and ball. Although presumably not to hear the support of their chanting fans. This all dramatically adds to the current current blind football game, whereby players wear bells to alert each other to where they are, and use a specially weighted ball. So bar a potential odd earache and battery-depleted iPhone, this sounds a much improved option and, to give Pepsi a big nod of approval, is very refreshing…

For further details check out The Sound of Football.

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