NFL Pushes the Boundaries of Football with Emerging Technology

Whistling footballs, robot tackling dummies and virtual reality experiences aren’t just in the imaginations of fans — they’re real and they’re here.

Grainy, slow-motion video of yesterday’s football heroes, such as Bears running back Walter Payton bulldozing over linebackers along with dramatic music and a baritone-voiced narrator, are the way that many football fans grew up watching and reliving the game day experience.

But now, NFL Films is eager to radically transform how gridiron fans experience the game — with the help of virtual reality (VR).

In November, NFL Films began producing VR game highlights and partnering with Google to create a nine-episode VR series on how players, coaches, executives, cheerleaders and fans prepare for games. Fans can view the content with VR headsets.

“NFL Films is really good at telling stories about football, and virtual reality and technology allow them to tell that story in a much more immersive way,” says William Deng, the NFL’s director of media strategy and business development.

The NFL and its teams invest heavily in technology to improve the game experience for fans, but also to gain a competitive edge on game day.

Technology such as mobile apps for fans, stadium Wi-Fi, and tablets/digital playbooks for coaches and players have become fairly commonplace.

But the league is also pushing the boundaries of what people previously thought possible.

This year, for example, the Pittsburgh Steelers and other teams have experimented with remote-controlled tackling dummies during practices, while the Dallas Cowboys and other teams have begun using whistling footballs to teach players not to fumble.

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