Intel acquires ‘freeD’ maker Replay Technologies

Intel said Wednesday that it has acquired Replay Technologies, an Israeli maker of immersive technology that gives television viewers a 3D-like view of sports events.

The deal not only gives Intel a new technology for its dive into the digitization of athletic events, but also a new buzz word: “immersive sports.”

Replay’s freeD technology was used at the NBA All Star Weekend and at Levi’s Stadium during the Super Bowl to capture split seconds of action on the court and field and assemble the images into global views that could be spun around to be examined from any angle. The resulting images were then broadcast on television.

Wendell Brooks, who heads the strategic transactions group at Intel, said in a blog post that the Santa Clara chip company “will scale this new category for sports entertainment that we call immersive sports, which is attracting the attention of leagues, venues, broadcasters and fans.

“Immersive sports requires the high-performance computing Intel is known for, and it’s also data driven – fueling the continued build out of the cloud,” he said. “For athletes, coaches, broadcasters and fans, the ability to capture, analyze and share data adds compelling new dimensions to the game.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Israeli publication Globes said the price was $175 million. Replay has offices in Dallas and in Silicon Valley and has been in close collaboration with Intel for a year or more.

Replay was started in 2011 by a small group of Israeli rocket scientists who wanted to create views of a soccer match from the perspective of the soccer goalie. Its technology was first used at the 2012 Olympics.

The collaboration with Intel meant that it could use the chip giant’s powerful server technology to assemble pixels into “freeD” images for rapid broadcasting, a company spokesman said in a recent interview.

“The name freeD is short for free dimensional,” said company spokesman Preston Phillips. “We’re putting together millions of millions 3-D pixels, called ‘voxels,’ to create those 3-D pictures as a as game occurs.”

The acquisition “gives us a lot bigger tool box to work with,” he said. “With our technology and their infrastructure we’ll be able to scale and advance the technology exponentially,” he said.

The Replay collaboration and acquisition is just one aspect of Intel’s dive into the rapidly evolving digitization of sports.

“Everything we know and experience about sports is about to change,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a recent article for Sports Illustrated’s Cauldron web magazine. He wrote that sports “is becoming digital and measurable. This will fundamentally change everything we know about the way athletes perform — and the arenas in which they compete.”

Replay’s CEO Oren H. Yogev, who is joining Intel as a vice president, said the deal means that “Replay will be able to focus on reaching the next level of freeD advancement, which will benefit sports and live entertainment properties around the world.”

Photo: Intel headquarters (Len Lahman, Mercury News)

 

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