MLSE and AWS create sports tech development arm SportsX …

  • MLSE owns the Toronto Raptors and Maple Leafs
  • AWS partnership was agreed in 2022 and includes cloud and AI tech
  • SportsX could commercialise tech for wider sports industry

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) Digital Labs and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have launched SportsX, a new research and development arm tasked with using technology and official game data to enhance performance and drive fan engagement.

MLSE, the owner of National Hockey League (NHL) franchise the Toronto Maple Leafs and the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Toronto Raptors, among others, first partnered with AWS in 2022 and uses the tech giant’s cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

“We’re thrilled to announce SportsX, a new incubator in collaboration with AWS rooted in research, applied sciences and product development,” said Humza Teherany, chief technology and digital officer at MLSE.

“The programme is an extension of our ongoing work with AWS and combines the expertise from both of our organisations with ideas shared by our passionate fans, to create a powerhouse in sports innovation.”

SportsX’s initial focus will be on mixed reality applications powered by the data gathering operations of the NBA and the NHL. The latter also uses AWS’ infrastructure to power its player and puck tracking application.

MLSE has already debuted three mixed reality applications. The first uses NBA tracking data, 3D models and the Unity gaming engine to create a virtual basketball game on an empty court, allowing fans to immerse themselves in famous basketball matches from a first-person perspective.

The second application turns real-time NHL data into a table-top experience, allowing users to see where every player is on the ice alongside key statistics and heat maps.

The final experience shown off was an augmented reality (AR) app that overlays graphics on the ice, allowing fans in the stands to enjoy a broadcast-like experience. While the first two use cases rely on dedicated hardware, this one uses a standard smartphone, meaning it can be rolled out much quicker.

The same technologies could also be applied by coaches and players to review performance, offering a more immersive experience than just game video.

The scope of SportsX extends beyond mixed reality and the venture will develop new use cases in multiple fields for the Raptors, Maple Leafs and other MLSE sports properties. Some will also be commercialised for the wider sports industry, solving challenges such as injury prevention.

MLSE already works with the Future of Sport Lab (FSL) incubator programme to provide support to Canadian sports tech startups. 

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