Meta Releasing New $1,500 Quest Pro, VR Fitness Accessory Bundle – SportTechie

Meta will release its Quest 2 Active Pack on Oct. 25 in what will be the company’s first fitness accessory bundle targeted to those who use Meta’s virtual reality headsets to exercise and play sports games. The Active Pack will cost $70 and contains safety accessories such as wrist straps and adjustable knuckle straps, as well as a wipeable foam interface worn under the Quest headset so that users can remove sweat from the device after working out.
Rob Shaw, Meta’s director of sports partnerships, first hinted at counter-sweat features coming to Meta’s headset in April when he spoke at SportTechie’s State Of The Industry conference. “The next iteration that we’re going to have of our current Quest 2 product is to make the headset more sweat proof, to have the controllers have better grips,” Shaw said. Meta also announced this week that Gym Class, a VR basketball game, will soon debut on its Quest 2 headset. Users can pay $14.99 to play privately on virtual courts with their friends or access the game’s free version to play on public virtual courts
Meta is also set to start selling its new Quest Pro headset on Oct. 25 for $1,500, a significant price jump compared to Meta’s existing $400 Quest 2 headset. The Quest Pro is being geared toward businesses who want to work in virtual reality, or in what Meta refers to as the Metaverse. The new headset contains eye and facial-tracking sensors for those movements to translate to a user’s virtual avatar. Meta also announced it has partnered with Microsoft to bring Microsoft Teams, Windows 365 and Xbox gaming into Meta’s headsets.
Meta’s collaboration with Microsoft and new VR headset come as Apple is expected to launch a mixed reality headset by early next year. Other new headsets from Sony PlayStation and ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, add further competition to the hardware market for the metaverse.
“Soon you will have almost full body positional data from the headsets. Right now you can infer full body, we get [data] from the headset itself and hand movements from the controllers through things like inverse kinematics,” Sam Cole, CEO of VR fitness app FitXR told SportTechie last month. “Those AI systems are getting better and better every day. But also new headsets are bringing out additional tracking by cameras that will start to also make fuller arm tracking possible, lower torso tracking possible.”
Predictive analytics company nVenue has launched an NFL micro-betting product and also added fantasy sports guru Matthew Berry to its advisory team.
The Dallas-based nVenue, a graduate of the Comcast Sports Tech Accelerator, had its national debut this summer as part of Apple TV+’s Friday night MLB broadcasts, powering pitch-by-pitch probabilities. Its AI models use historical data and live inputs to produce predictions in less than a second, and now an NFL product is available to media companies and sportsbooks via its NextPlayLive API.
Berry, a longtime ESPN analyst who recently joined NBC Sports, will advise nVenue on product development and help showcase its predictive markets through his content.
The latest Next Gen Stat produced by the NFL and Amazon Web Services is Coverage Classification, an identifier of team passing defensive tactics.
There are eight man and zone pass defenses included in Coverage Classification. The metric is computed using AI algorithms constructed by the AWS Machine Learning Solutions Lab that draws on the player tracking data gleaned from the Zebra Technologies RFID tags on every player’s shoulder pads. More than 60,000 passing plays from the past four seasons were included in the training data set.
The development of Coverage Classification was inspired by a submission to the NFL’s annual Big Data Bowl. Earlier this week, the league announced the fifth edition of the Kaggle-hosted, AWS-backed analytics contest. This year’s theme is calls on data scientists to analyze pass blocking and pass rushing.
PointsBet has launched an NFL microbet homepage on its app, which reportedly led to a 108% increase in live in-game wagering this past football weekend.
Marketed by Pointsbet as “lightning bets,” the app allows users to wager on the outcome of every NFL play and drive during a game. At this week’s CAA World Congress of Sport, the NBA’s deputy commissioner Mark Tatum suggested that in-game betting will soon account for 70% of all overall bets.
As a result, PointsBet has made an emphasis of micro-betting and claims that its “lightning bets” led to an overall 184% rise in unique customers using the platform week over week. It also said that during last Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals game, its microbets were “the most popular live markets and third highest in terms of handle.”
PointsBet is also upgrading its app content, which will include videos from proprietary shows such as “The Straight Line with Ryan Leaf.” In 2021, PointBet acquired Ireland-based Banach Technology, whose software built the sports wagering platforms and algorithms that help advance PointsBet’s live “Always On” in-game platform.
This past January, PointsBet first trialed its live in-game wagering option during the Bengals-Raiders playoff game on NBC — considering PointsBet is in the midst of a five-year partnership as the official sports betting partner of NBCUniversal. PointsBet app users could view live odds to make spread and moneyline bets, minus any suspensions that could prevent the wagers from taking place.
The PointsBet app also allows microbets for NBA and college basketball games, with plans to branch into MLB and the World Cup. About 10 months ago, PointsBet signed a deal with Sportradar’s Live Channel Online service so that it could livestream games within its app.
Noah Basketball has installed a new 120-foot-long videoboard inside the Toronto Raptors’ practice facility to display real-time advanced shot metrics as well as game or practice footage during the team’s training sessions. Noah’s shot-tracking system leverage computer vision cameras mounted above rims to measure each shot’s arc, depth, and left-right positioning, as well as heat maps and tracking makes and misses.
The Raptors first installed Noah at its OVO Athletic Centre training facility in 2018. Coaches and players typically viewed the shot analytics on iPads or computers, but that process is now easier with the real-time data being shown during practices on the massive wall-hung videoboard, which can also stream footage from practices and games. Noah uses facial recognition to identify each player and keep track of their individual shooting performances, while it is also providing automated voice feedback on shots inside the Raptors’ facility.
“My original thought was that we could have a Jumbotron courtside so that we could be doing things in practice and want to teach immediately,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse told The Canadian Press. “If they missed [a shot], they can see why. If it was too far to the left, if it was too long, it was too short, [the] arc was too flat, whatever.”
Nurse joined the board of directors at Noah Basketball in 2021. The company’s shot-tracking system is used by more than a dozen NBA teams, including the Clippers, Knicks, Trail Blazers, Suns and Warriors, as well as hundreds of college basketball programs. Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league also partnered with Noah earlier this year.
“We use Noah everyday,” Clippers guard Terance Mann told SportTechie in August. “Once you walk in the cameras recognize your face. It tracks all your shots, your makes, your arc, how accurate your shot is left to right. So I love Noah and I like the feedback it gives. It gives you the day, it gives you the week, it gives you the month, it gives you the year, so it’s pretty cool to see.
A triumvirate of NFT companies have partnered with former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis to create Universe 52, a private Web3 platform that will connect fans with the former five-time All-Pro linebacker.
Through Summit NFT Studios and Flux88 — and ultimately powered by blockchain-centric Fanaply — the public can buy NFT membership passes starting Wednesday that will unlock the chance to interact with Willis at 49ers home games this season, to attend a watch party with him for the 49ers-Rams rematch on October 30 and to own some of his personal game memorabilia.
The NFT passes are decorated with artwork from Rob Prior Studios, which has previously done animations with Marvel, D.C., Todd McFarlane, Kevin Eastman and Image Comics. Fanaply, a turnkey NFT provider, is behind the project and, since 2018, has developed NFTs in conjunction with the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Oklahoma City Thunder, Pac-12 Conference and Kentucky Derby. It also produced NFTs for the Dallas Stars’ Tyler Sequin, similar to the Willis platform.
Flux88 Studios has previously created NFTs for Trevor Noah, Vin Scully and Bret Boone, among others, while Summit NFT Studios — after debuting an in-house NFT collection in 2021 — is pivoting now towards sports tokens.
In advance of next month’s World Cup, FIFA has partnered with Roblox to create a free-to-access digital environment, FIFA World, that will host video content, social spaces and activities for users to earn rewards and collectibles. 
FIFA World is intended to be a communal gathering space in the metaverse for experiencing events like the men’s World Cup in Qatar and the 2023 women’s World Cup, which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand beginning in July. The new FIFA+ library will provide the video used within the digital space, and updates for new content are promised, such as virtual kits from participating national teams.
Two young stars — 19-year-old Pedro “Pedri” González, who plays for Barcelona FC and Spain, as well as 20-year-old Lena Oberdorf of VfL Wolfsburg and the German women’s national team — will be ambassadors of FIFA World and make appearances.
At SBJ’s Brand Innovation Summit in June, Roblox head of sports partnerships Hayden Walling said that the platform had more than 50 million monthly active users and that 44% of experiences are played with a friend, describing sports leagues’ opportunity within Roblox as “almost blue sky in the fact that you can almost build anything. You have an out-of-the box social network that’s 3D with a very engaged audience that wants to discover things.”
In a recent study from Momentum Worldwide, sports fan surveyed cited video games Roblox and Fortnite as being the “metaverse” platforms they’re most likely to have used over the past month. The NFL, Wimbledon tennis, Nike, and Dick’s Sporting Goods have all launched virtual worlds on Roblox over the past year where users can access digital merchandise for their avatars.
Fans attending MLB postseason contests starting tonight can receive commemorative NFT tickets that will update with pertinent game photos within 24 hours of the event.
The NFTs or digital ticket stubs, produced by the league’s digital collectible partner Candy Digital, will also feature game details such as matchups, the venue and the starting time — a first for MLB.
In addition, fans who also bought MLB ICON Leadoff Series NFTs in April have the opportunity on October 21st to find eight randomly placed World Series digital tokens. Each of those World Series Token NFTs can be traded in for two tickets to this season’s actual World Series.
This year, Candy Digital appealed to the baseball audience by constantly updating player stats on its MLB ICON Leadoff Series NFTs. Its inaugural baseball NFT, on July 4th 2021, was a 1-of-1 token of Lou Gehrig delivering his “Luckiest Man” speech in 1939 following his diagnosis of ALS.
The company followed that up this season with a series of licensed NFTs commemorating the 40-year anniversary of Cal Ripken’s dynamic rookie season of 1982. Those NFTs featured archived video highlights from the ’82 season along with other footage narrated by Ripken himself.
In August, Candy Digital announced their latest college football NFT drop featuring 17 student-athletes, including Texas running back Bijan Robinson, Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and Oregon QB Bo Nix. The company initially entered the college football NFT space in 2021 with its Candy Sweet Futures Collection and debuted a college basketball version in March of 2022, as well.
Micro-betting app Betr has become the first sports betting operator to ban the use of credit cards, the company announced Monday at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. In another effort to promote responsible online gambling, Betr will set deposit limits for users that are 21-25 years old.
By banning credit cards, Betr instead allows payment options such as pre-paid cards or debit cards to make deposits. The company, which was co-founded by entrepreneur Jake Levy and social media influencer-turned-boxing star Jake Paul, also announced that digital branded gift cards from Prizeout will be the exclusive winnings withdrawal option on Betr. Last month saw Betr launch its free-to-play gaming app nationwide, and its real-money betting app will debut in select states over the coming months. Users can bet on the outcomes of specific plays, such as every at-bat in an MLB game.
Levy co-founded Betr after previously co-founding micro sports betting software SimpleBet. Investors in Betr include current and former NFL players Ezekiel Elliott, Richard Sherman, Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson and Braxton Berrios. Leagues to promote responsible gambling with the American Gaming Association include the NFL, MLB and NHL, PGA Tour and NASCAR.
FANtium, a platform that enables fans to invest in athletes through NFTs, has received $2 million in private pre-seed funding from a group that includes U.S. Open tennis champion Dominic Thiem and OneFootball founder Lucas von Cranach.
Founded by Jonathan Ludwig, an early investor in the fantasy soccer NFT company Sorare, FANtium is predicated on democratizing athlete financing via the blockchain. Athletes in individual sports such as tennis, golf and racing are able to sell shares of their future earnings in the form of NFTs — in some cases to help pay for travel and coaching — while purchasing fans benefit from the athlete’s real-time and future financial success, including sponsorships.
As well as earning a share of what the athlete makes, fans gain access to the player’s inner circle, as well as well as other perks. Young up-and-coming athletes are particularly incentivized by FANtium because — in exchange for their NFTs — they can earn the up-front money to assist in their rise and training.
FANtium expects to launch its initial athlete NFT drop in Q4 of 2022. Its latest investors include Sandbox COO and co-founder Sebastien Borget, Sorare’s growth leader Brian O’Hagan, Argent co-founder and CEO Itamar Lesuisse and Spatial co-founder Anand Agarawala. Thiem, the Australian tennis star and another investor, is known for his interest in technology, going back to the integration of Hawk-Eye Innovations’ automated line-calling on the pro tour.
Social media startup Pixstory has become title partner of this year’s Street Child World Cup, a youth soccer tournament taking place in Doha, Qatar ahead of the FIFA World Cup. The Street Child World Cup began Oct. 8 and runs through Oct. 15 with 28 participating teams from 24 countries consisting of disadvantaged boys and girls from around the world.
Street Child United is hosting this year’s tournament in partnership with the Qatar Foundation. It marks the fourth edition of the SCWC following youth tournaments in South Africa (2010), Brazil (2014), and Russia (2018). Pixstory, which partnered with Premier League soccer club Arsenal FC last month, is sponsoring the tournament to promote online safety for youth athletes through its social media app that’s focused on reducing hate speech and misinformation. FIFA announced in June that it was launching an AI service to detect abusive posts directed towards players on social media during the Qatar World Cup.
“The rampant rise of hate speech in football dialogues around the world is harmful to both athletes and spectators. Protecting young people from the effects of harmful content and prioritizing their right to online safety requires a behavioral change in social media,” Pixstory’s founder Appu Suresh said in a statement. “Healthy dialogue online should not be the exception in the social media world, but the norm.”
NBA center Dwight Howard is an ambassador for Pixstory, which also has deals with Italian soccer club Juventus and French club Paris Saint Germain Feminine. Pixstory launched in early 2021 and now claims to have 500,000 users. The platform deploys an AI system to detect hate speech and the visibility of its social feed is based on a post’s integrity score, which is ranked on the number of users choosing to “support” or “challenge” a post based on if they view the content to be ethical and factual.


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