Unity’s Metacast aims to take live sports to a 3D interactive space

Unity, a development platform often used with video games, is introducing a new Metacast technology for building 3D interactivity into live sports viewing.

The new platform uses volumetric capture technology to create three-dimensional renderings that allow viewers to control viewing angles while pausing, rewinding and interacting the action. Unity will use the platform to render, edit and author the content before pushing it out to content delivery networks and broadcasters or other content owners. Unity has tapped UFC as an early partner for research and development for the technology.

“One of our brand maxims is ‘Be First’ and this collaboration with Unity is a great example of how we want to be first to use this technology to enhance the UFC experience for our fans,” said Lawrence Epstein, UFC’s chief operating officer, in a statement. “We look forward to exploring the opportunities with Peter and his team to determine the best ways to integrate real-time 3D within UFC content.”

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Metacast is one of the core technologies for Unity’s new sports and live entertainment segment, which is being run by Peter Moore. Moore, who now serves as Unity’s senior vice president and general manager, has extensive sports and gaming background after previously serving as CEO of Liverpool FC and working at Sega, Xbox and EA.

Moore said that Unity is working with camera companies like Canon for the volumetric capture and he said that wireless carriers who are pushing 5G—and 6G before too long—are interested in working with Unity for content that drives use cases for faster networks with increased bandwidth.

Metacast is starting with UFC—which is easier to capture and render due to the confined octagon that contains the action—but Unity is already exploring using the technology for other sports including soccer and basketball. Moore said the shift of more live sports to streaming platforms makes it easier to introduce 3D channels for broadcasts.

Moore said that beginning in 2022, Unity will begin showing off the work it’s doing with Metacast and UFC, with the first experiences being complementary to pay-per-view events or in studio where on-air personalities can use it for post-fight analysis. He also pictured a future where augmented reality could play a role viewing 3D interactive sports content.

“As the technology improves, as camera tech improves, as bandwidth of broadband becomes ubiquitous 5G and starts moving to 6G, things that we’re involved in will get faster in delivering a rendered, ready-to-go image or stream to broadcasters,” he said. “Over the coming years, you’ll see this evolve.”