One broadcaster is putting virtual crowds in MLB games powered by the technology behind ‘Fortnite’ — here’s what they look like

MLB virtual fans.
MLB virtual fans.

Silver Spoon

  • Major League Baseball games will have virtual fans this season on Fox Sports. 

  • Silver Spoon studio is providing the virtual crowd, using the same technology behind the game “Fortnite.”

  • Other sports leagues have tried creative ways of making up for empty stadiums.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus has put most public events, including sports and concerts, on hold around the world.

As many countries see declining cases and hospitalizations, public life is slowly starting to reopen. In the US, however, cases continue to rise, with many states seeing record numbers of new cases nearly every day.

Major League Baseball is starting up its season, which was delayed back in March. Games will be broadcast on TV, but for now no fans will be allowed to attend. Fox Sports, one network that shows MLB games, announced that it would include virtual crowds in broadcasts to create a sense of normalcy.

Sports leagues in other countries have been similarly creative in coping with the eeriness of empty stadiums. Tech giant Softbank’s baseball team in Japan put the company’s Pepper robots in the stands, wearing jerseys and cheering for the team.

Here’s what the virtual crowds look like. 

On Thursday July 23, the MLB opened the 2020 season, after coronavirus-induced delay.

MLB reopening.
MLB reopening.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fans are not allowed at scheduled games, and that policy is expected to continue through the 2020 season.

MLB reopening.
MLB reopening.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

While stadium seats will be empty, Fox Sports is broadcasting games with virtual fans.

MLB virtual fans.
MLB virtual fans.

Silver Spoon

The augmented reality fans are an effort to make the games feel as normal as possible for viewers, The New York Post reported.

MLB reopening.
MLB reopening.

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Source: The New York Post

Fans will wear weather appropriate clothing and react to events in the game. They could even cheer or do the wave.

MLB virtual fans.
MLB virtual fans.

Silver Spoon

Fox Sports told the Post that it is also working with the NFL in case football games also remain empty.

MLB reopening.
MLB reopening.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

AR is meant to add atmosphere to a live broadcast, without taking away from the game, Silver Spoon told Business Insider.

MLB virtual fans.
MLB virtual fans.

Silver Spoon

The AR fans are possible thanks to a combination of motion capture, animation, and camera tracking.

MLB virtual fans.
MLB virtual fans.

Silver Spoon

Silver Spoon put together its virtual crowd in only a few months using 3D rendering tools from Unreal Engine, the game engine that powers “Fortnite.”

MLB reopening.
MLB reopening.

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

“We were dead set on trying to make the broadcast with no crowd feel as authentic and organic as possible. We want to give people an escape,” Brad Zager of Fox Sports told The Post.

MLB reopening.
MLB reopening.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“We are trying to make them feel that in the normal pitch-by-pitch, shot-by-shot baseball it is what they are used to. We aren’t trying to fool anyone,” Zager said. So far, no other networks have adopted virtual crowds.

MLB reopening.
MLB reopening.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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