FOX Sports to use virtual fans for MLB games, in talks with NFL

Kathryn Riley / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Fans will not be in attendance when MLB's delayed season starts Thursday, but FOX Sports wants those at home to still feel like they're watching a full ballpark.

Games on FOX Sports will have virtual crowds and pumped-in crowd noise in order to create a simulated atmosphere, the network announced Thursday, according to John Ourand of Sports Business Daily.

"We wanted to make it as normal as possible - this is what a Major League Baseball game should look and feel like," said FOX Sports executive Brad Zager. "What we're going for is normalcy and authenticity. We're not trying to fool anybody. If there's a few seconds where we can make it feel like a Major League Baseball stadium, that's what we're going for."

The network also carries NFL games, and FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks said he's been in talks with the football league about using the same technology when its season begins in September.

Here's a teaser for how virtual crowds will look at MLB games:

FOX Sports and MLB successfully tested the augmented reality technology at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field about three weeks ago.

FOX Sports will be able to dictate what the virtual crowd is wearing, how much they are cheering, and how split the attendance is between the two teams depending on the current score, among other features. However, the crowd won't be seen in player close-up shots.

"If there's a time when the director wants to show the crowd doing the wave, we can trigger that," Zager said. "If we want people leaving the game because it's 8-2 in the ninth inning, we can trigger that."

FOX Sports to use virtual fans for MLB games, in talks with NFL
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