NBC’s newest piece of camera equipment doesn’t go inside golfers’ heads, but it gets about as close as you can.
Created by startup Headvantage, the miniature lens sits underneath a competitor’s cap, filming the action from their point of view. At the same time, the kit tracks the wearer’s eyes, identifying exactly where they’re looking.
NBC Sports will demo Headvantage cameras at two celebrity golf tournaments this summer, while the startup secures partnerships in other sports as well. Instructors will also don the gear for lessons in NBC’s GolfPass product.
Headvantage founder Jay Hedley, an Air Force veteran, said the tech was inspired by heads-up displays and tracking technologies employed by pilots.
“The idea came to me, Well, why don’t we train athletes from their vantage point?” he said. “That brings us now into the mind of the athletes on TV. You know, NBC does a great job of showing us, ‘What did the athlete do?’ But we don’t really know why they did it.” Following a QB’s eyes, for instance, could explain why he threw an interception—or how he manipulated a safety and created space for a touchdown throw.
Headvantage recently participated in the second round of Comcast NBCUniversal’s SportsTech Accelerator. “It was really the eye tracking technology that stood out for us as being really differentiated,” Jenna Kurath, the head of Comcast NBCU SportsTech said.
The program identifies startups across eight categories and mixes them with myriad sports partners, ranging from U.S. Ski & Snowboard to WWE, over 12 weeks. Beyond golf, Headvantage is also exploring applications in team sports like football and baseball.
“Jay is just a great example of why we want to have as many consortium partners as we do,” Kurath said. “Jay’s done a really smart job of thinking of each sport as its own vertical and understanding what are the technical differences of integrating it into a helmet versus a really comfortable baseball cap, as an example.”
In addition to providing an additional angle for producers, the cameras can help golf broadcasters judge a ball’s lie, identify which club a golfer is holding, and get a sense of the type of obstruction they’re facing, Hedley said.
“One of the areas that we’ve struggled with historically is to be able to get more and more on the field,” Sky Sports director of operations James Clement said during a recent Headvantage presentation. “What we’re seeing with Headvantage is a real opportunity to be able to get to an area that’s previously been completely prohibited.”