WHITEFISH, MT / August 19, 2014 / If you follow sports, you have seen that sports teams are gathering data about how their athletes move, how far they run, what positions they gravitate toward, how their body responds to stress, etc. The data can be gathered by cameras and software, as is the case with the National Basketball Association’s SportVU system. Or it can be gathered by wearables, sensors that transmit information from the athletes’ bodies to receivers that record the data, as is the case with Major League Soccer’s agreement with Adidas AG (ADDYY). According to an article in USA Today, the National Football League is having all players wear two sensors for the first time this year, a step that was written into the collective-bargaining agreement in 2011. The league is partnering with Zebra Technologies (ZBRA) and will install receivers in 17 stadiums this year, on the way to covering every game in every stadium. There is a lot to be learned, and teams apply the knowledge to optimize training schedules, create the most effective game plans and make sound financial decisions based on performance.
Along these lines, a recent article in the Silicon Valley Business Journal, titled "The quantified All-Star: How wearable tech is changing the way pro sports are played, paid for and watched", discussed many aspects of this trend. One angle is how the proliferation of personalized information could change the way sports are broadcast, and how a company from Ohio named The Guitammer Company (GTMM) looks to be right in the middle of this new, personalized era of broadcasting.
The article outlines a nascent partnership between Guitammer, the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks, and Comcast SportsNet. Utilizing Guitammer’s tactile broadcast technology, Comcast SportsNet plans to televise Sharks games in "4-D". The system transmits haptic or tactile information to viewers at home, allowing them to ‘feel’ the action when a hockey player smashes another into the boards.
As Dave Koppett, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area Senior Executive Producer, put it, “When a big hit happens and a guy smashes into the boards, you will feel it. Imagine each player wearing a chip in the shoulder pads.” To take that thought a step or two further, imagine being able to view and experience a live hockey game from your favorite player’s point of view, and paying for the privilege of that virtual experience. This is similar to the INDYCAR 14 mobile app currently offered by Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), which gives subscribers choices of a variety of in-car cameras, live driver-pit crew chatter and behind the scenes viewing.
Comcast SportsNet is a chain of regional sports networks that are owned and operated by Comcast Corporation (CMCSA), which also owns NBCUniversal. With an extensive presence throughout the United States, Comcast SportsNet encompasses a variety of live sporting events, ranging from Major League Baseball to NCAA sports. NBC broadcasts the NHL nationally and also shows NFL games. That is some pretty big company for Guitammer to be keeping, but it makes sense once you dig around a little bit.
Unique Broadcast Technology
Guitammer began developing its broadcast technology in 2007, which is designed to encode live broadcasts with haptic-tactile signals. In 2011, the company secured U.S. Patent 7,911,328 for the "Capture and remote reproduction of haptic events in synchronous association with the video and audio capture and reproduction of these events" and began marketing the technology.
Management has been very active in pioneering the standards for tactile broadcast technologies as well. Guitammer’s CEO Mark Luden chairs a Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers ("SMPTE") group focused on creating a standard for haptic-tactile broadcasting. The goal is to avoid having an HDD / BluRay or a VHS / Beta type of conflict with competing technologies confusing the market. This past June, in Tokyo, a member of SMPTE’s staff regarding Guitammer’s efforts in haptic-tactile broadcasting interviewed Luden:If the video below does not display, please follow this link to the YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0sIAwgrAog#action=share
Guitammer plans on commercializing the broadcast technology using a recurring revenue model that’s beneficial to cable, satellite, and FiOS broadcasters, as well as content creators, distributors, and end users regardless of the brand of haptic-tactile hardware they decide to use. Moreover, the company could also license its "ButtKicker" brand of haptic-tactile home hardware technology to hardware manufacturers looking to take advantage of the enhanced broadcasts.
This presentation from the April 2014 National Cable & Telecommunications Association Cable Show Luden highlights this technology’s potential benefits to the entire broadcast ecosystem and explains how tactile broadcasts are the natural next step after UltraHD.
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NHRA Proof of Concept
In the fall of 2013, Guitammer tactile enabled the National Hot Rod Association (“NHRA”) races on ESPN2.
You can see an overview of Guitammer’s broadcast technology and how it was implemented for NHRA broadcasts here:
If the video below does not display, please follow this link to the YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ3lPbtDt5E#action=share
Guitammer stands at a key tipping point within its corporate history, pivoting from the hardware business to the broader reach and greater financial potential of the broadcast technology. By moving from a niche sport like the NHRA to mainstream sports like professional hockey or football, Guitammer could see a dramatic increase in awareness and demand for tactile technologies. The long-term implications could be significant for the company, with licensing opportunities from broadcasters, sports leagues and larger consumer electronics hardware manufacturers, all helping the company transition to a recurring revenue model. This modest $4 million micro-cap company may be worth following along its journey to live sports, broadcast in "4D".
For more information see the following resources:- Company Website
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