Weavr prototype unveiled to provide eSports and sports fans with the ultimate viewing experience
Government-backed esports innovation project Weavr unveils first working prototype
The first working prototype mobile app for Weavr, a technology platform that uses live and historic data to create meaningful and personalised mixed reality fan experiences, has been demonstrated by the Weavr Consortium.
Comprised of six UK companies spanning eSports, education and entertainment, and supported by UK Research and Innovation, the Weavr Consortium hopes that the technology will excite and engage both eSports and traditional sports fans.
The technology was demonstrated publically for the first time on Thursday 15 August.
Speaking to SVG Europe, James Dean, ESL UK CEO and Weavr CEO, described Weavr’s power as true, “cognitive immersion” that is currently “smashing” anything else attempting to try to go down a similar route, “out of the water”.
He also told SVG Europe that while Weavr is currently working within the realm of eSports, the team is keen to work with a traditional but data-heavy sport such as cricket or Formula 1 to show what the technology can do for the fan experience.
Challenging the status quo
Weavr powers the creation of data-driven content and opens up commercial opportunities for brands and teams. It lets fans move between physical and virtual viewing, see the stories they want and be immersed like never before.
Weavr’s high-fidelity predictive data analytics gives eSports fans accurate forecasts in real-time, unique insights into player performance, and integrates into the live viewing experience. The demonstrator is designed to inspire and engage industry, said Dean. “We’re here to share our findings, and it’s very cool,” he noted.
Said Dean: “It’s getting heads together who want to challenge the status quo. Ultimately what we’re trying to do is to monetise that eSports fan; media rights is kind of old hat in eSports, as all this content is available for free. So what’s the opportunity to monetise the fan, not only through that piece of linear content, but in any way imaginable, from VR to social presence, however you name it? If an end user really loves [Weavr], they’re really happy to spend on it, so everyone’s happy and everyone’s got a bang for their buck.”
Just eight months on from founding in January 2019, the consortium has built a highly functional prototype of the first third party analytics and viewing platform for eSports, based on ESL’s game, Dota 2. The prototype was demonstrated at ESL One Birmingham at the end of May, which was visited by 27,000 fans. At the event the app was demonstrated to influencers and the talent team, and was also taken to the main concourse where feedback from end users was gathered.
Dean explained: “We just wanted people’s feedback to know, ‘is this something you’re looking for?’, ‘would you pay for this?’, ‘would you engage with this?’. We found that those users are very keen to get more hands-on with Weavr, so that was great; I thought, right, thank goodness for that!
“In Birmingham what we showed [people] smashed anything out of the water that was trying to do anything close to what we’re doing; cognitive immersion, using data to tell a better story.”
He went on to add that, “there have been a lot of projects that have had a lot of VC money, big sponsors or development time behind them, and they haven’t been able to deliver. In only three months of development (by the time the government signed off the project it was March,) it’s incredible what we’ve achieved”.
Changing the VR experience
The consortium set out the next stages of development for Weavr, with new products and functionality slated to be ready by ESL One Hamburg at the end of October 2019.
Dean commented: “We are now working towards ESL One Hamburg in October. There will be a VR experience that people will be able to use on site in Hamburg.”
On how Weavr is set to change the existing VR experience, Dean pointed to the lack of real innovation in the majority of today’s VR products: “VR experiences tend to be quite gimmicky; you’re watching a virtual TV in a virtual living room with virtual people. What we’re doing is applying the Weavr framework to provide a whole new experience. We want to get people’s minds-eye focused on the fact that we’re going to really push boundaries.”
The goal of the project is to launch Weavr as a service. Dean said: “We’re looking for investment to aid that and we have interested parties in what we’re doing with Weavr already.”
Going for Formula 1 and cricket
Weavr will be rolled out into more eSports games as well as traditional sports, said Dean. He is particularly interested in traditional sports, such as Formula 1 and cricket. He explained: “We’re desperate to get our teeth into a traditional sport for [Weavr]. We feel this is an opportunity for more of the data-driven traditional sports, like cricket and Formula 1, which have such a large amount of data fidelity.”
As to how or why those sports should be interested in a platform such as Weavr, Dean commented: “Ultimately there should be a synergistic way in which you can engage with that sport. You should know who my favourite driver is and give me performance stats and predictions, giving me more knowledge and ability as a storyteller; that’s something humans aspire to, knowledge and to look smart!”
Much like Dr Who’s sonic screwdriver, Weavr seeks to link everything while personalising everything to the fan. Dean said it is designed to allow the sport’s technology to engage directly with their fan base, versus now where multiple products for different uses, from TV to mobile to VR to a merchandise website, are bought from different vendors and these products do not communicate seamlessly.
“But what if you had a platform that could connect it all?” questioned Dean. “Everything, from the TV to the smartphone, the data feed, the narrative and the context, should interoperate seamlessly, through to putting on a VR set or opening your laptop. Linear commentary is brilliant, but at the same time you want to know what the specifics are to me and [your own] personal viewpoint on that [event].”
The Weavr Consortium aims to find a traditional sport to work with over 2020, but it will depend on whether that sport’s IT systems are all up to date and under their own control, noted Dean, as to whether a collaboration would be possible.
The project runs to the end of 2020 and including the Hamburg demo, there will be another two next year to highlight the project’s progress.
Nigel Adams, Minister for Sport, Media and the Creative Industries, commented: “Weavr were awarded £4 million through the Audiences of the Future Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to help it create a new platform to transform the way fans remotely engage with live sports, so it is exciting to see its first working prototype launch.
“I’ve no doubt creative companies such as Weavr will, with its innovative product having far-reaching commercial value for the UK, be at the heart of the nation’s economy for many years to come.”