Sports are coming back. Slowly but surely, the postponements and stoppages caused by the coronavirus pandemic are being lifted. Although it’ll probably be a long time yet before we’re able to attend an event in person and cheer on our favorite team.
Or maybe it won’t take that long — the cheering part, at least.
Soccer fans in Denmark watched a Superliga match over Zoom. Borussia Monchengladbach, in the German Bundesliga, offered fans the chance to have a cardboard cutout of themselves in the stands. The Bundesliga is also experimenting with artificial crowd noise. Fox NFL analyst Joe Buck said on “Andy Cohen Live!” that bringing fake crowd noise to NFL games was “pretty much a done deal.”
But, those don’t allow fans to really interact with their teams, or the opponents. One company is trying to do that. Yamaha, a Japanese hardware manufacturer, is preparing to debut an app called Remote Cheerer that would allow you to be heard, literally, at live sporting events while you sit on your couch at home.
The app has been in development for “about two years,” according to Yuki Seto, the group leader/manager of the project — in other words, long before the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was originally based on the fact there are children in hospitals, there are parents taking care of children, people with disabilities who really want to go to an event but they can’t because of those issues,” Seto said via a translator. “[The app] was made for those people.”
Yamaha had planned to debut the app after the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. The Olympics were pushed back a year, but the development of the app was pushed forward.
“For the current times, we want to be able to let people send their support and have that support delivered to the people creating the entertainment, creating the shows and creating the sports,” Seto said.
How does it work? It’s a bit of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” in fandom. Simply put, fans can push buttons on their cell phones, and the corresponding noise will be heard inside the stadium. The more pushes a particular button gets, the louder that sound will be.
The sounds can be targeted specifically to home or away teams, via strategically located speakers in the stadiums. And certain protective measures have been put in place as well.
“Instead of just making an app where you could say anything into the microphone and have that sent through and possibly have that used in abusive ways, we wanted to create a way that would still send support to someone safely,” Seto said. “So we went for the buttons — cheer, clap, boo and stuff like that.”
The app can be customized for particular teams or sports, and there has been interest from all over the world.
“We’ve spoken to horse racing associations in England, a large association has contacted us,” Seto said. “We’ve had contact about cricket from India, and basketball from America [one unnamed team in particular].”
But the focus right now is on Japan. The app has already been tested at three stadiums, and it will be tested again at a live soccer match on June 13. If that goes well, the app will be made available for public use when the J-League gets back underway on July 4.
“[The coronavirus] has just basically created this new opportunity for us,” Seto said, “to create a new sort of spectator culture, to be able to enjoy something in a new way.”