Tennis fans will be aware that the French Open tennis tournament is currently underway at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris. Among the four major tennis "Grand Slam" tournaments, it is one of the greatest prizes in the sport. Speculation is rife on who will win this year's final. Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal seems to have just re-discovered his form, while defending champion and former world number one, Novak Djokovic, seems to have lost his.
French incumbent Orange (NYSE: FTE) has decided to get into the action this year, and use the tournament to showcase virtual reality. Orange has been involved with the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT) and the French Open for 16 years, providing communication services for the tournament. But this year, it is also offering "Holotennis," a VR experience for those attending the event.
"Holotennis" is a VR experience, allowing users to play tennis against an opponent in a different location, also connected to the application via Orange's fiber network. Users wear an HTC Vive headset, and are "virtually teleported" into the venue for the finals -- the grandstand Phillipe Chatrier court. The players see a 3D holographic version of the court and each other, and are able to play each other and interact as if they were the competing players in the French Open final. For those wondering what it's like, Orange has a handy video to demonstrate the experience here.
Technology for the application is supplied by Emissive and Mimesys, which provide the cameras with 3D depth perception. According to the operator, this application is the latest in its ongoing activities in VR, and "sees this experience as a precursor to the future of sports and communication services."
Orange is also using the event to showcase its 4G and IoT LoRa technology. Event staff are using handheld counters which report the occupancy rate at busy courts, while other counters automatically record the number of visitors and the status of queues in real time in various areas of the stadium. Plus, Orange has installed connected floor coverings with vibration detectors at the entrances to one court, to track the number of people entering the stadium, and automatically calculate and communicate the number of seats left. The operator has also installed customer satisfaction points, to get real-time feedback and allow the FFT to take remedial action urgently if needed. (See Ondet: Datavenue Ups IoT Game for Orange.)
And Orange Business Services (via subsidiary Ocean) has partnered with Free2Move (mobile service from the PSA Group and Peugeot) to manage the transport needs of players, VIPs, officials and attendees. This application is expected to optimize utilization of the more than 200 Peugeot vehicles involved with shuttling people to and from the tournament. Orange sees this pilot program as an example of what real-time connectivity and information-sharing technologies can do for businesses involved with transportation.
While it's clear some of these technologies will take time to develop a substantial market, major headline events like this offer operators an opportunity to showcase new, innovative applications and educate potential customers about what is possible. Orange has used the opportunity to build interest in VR, just as BT is doing with the Champion's League soccer final in the UK. I suspect we'll see more opportunistic marketing plays from operators and other providers in coming months, as they try to stir up awareness and interest in VR. (See Climb the Highest Mountain: BT's McRae.)
Plus, who wouldn't want to beat Rafa Nadal at Roland Garros -- even if it's just in VR?
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation