NBA App to Let Fans Replace Live Players with Own Avatar

The National Basketball Association (NBA) last week announced a new feature for its mobile app that will let users scan themselves into live games.

With what the NBA called the “streaming experience of the future,” users will be able to scan a full-body, 360-degree model of themselves with their phone’s camera and put it into a live game in place of an NBA player of their choice.

The upcoming feature is powered by Polycam, a 3D scanning app for iOS and Android. According to Polycam, the NBA feature leverages LiDAR technology to scan a person and create their digital avatar. The only mainstream smartphones to currently sport a LiDAR sensor are the iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro series.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver showcased the feature onstage at the 2023 NBA All-Star Tech Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, last week. Check out a clip of the demonstration below, where Silver replaced Talen Horton-Tucker in a live Utah Jazz game with an avatar of legendary sportscaster and former NFL player Ahmad Rashad.

YouTube video

While the feature looks pretty fun, the NBA is yet to announce a release date for it.

“In addition to the avatar option, the future telecast will offer fans more customized experiences, including a wider selection of alternate languages, high-profile influencer and celebrity commentary, the ability to transport the game to virtual locations, new animated graphics, integrated betting and enhanced camera angles,” the NBA said.

The NBA is currently also looking for suitors to purchase broadcasting rights to its games, which Apple is reportedly gunning for.

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