Future of Sport

The 1,000-ton screen bringing Super Bowl LVI to the lucky fans inside the stadium

CNN  — 

At Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, both teams will be playing with more than 1,000 tons hanging over their heads.

Suspended 122 feet above the field, the 120-yard long, oval-shaped Infinity Screen by Samsung is the largest videoboard in the history of sports, according to the Korean electronics giant. But while it’s been in place since mid-2020, it won’t have had a showcase quite like the Super Bowl before.

The screen is a key feature inside SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, a massive, reportedly $5 billion facility shared by two NFL teams – one of which happens to be playing in this weekend’s big game.

When the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals clash on Sunday, fans inside the 70,000-capacity arena will have access to all manner of game data as a result of the giant screen. Instant replays and close-ups, statistics, scores and interactive updates will all be programmed on the screen in panels ranging from 20 to 40 feet high.

SoFi Stadium photographed on February 8, 2022 ahead of Super Bowl LVI.

With 70,000 square feet of ultra-high-definition screen totaling 80 million pixels on its inside and outside surfaces, fans sitting lower down watch the screen inside the oval, while fans higher up will see the outside. Basically, there are no bad angles.

The display is making a lot of noise – literally. It’s fitted with the equivalent of 1,500 home theater speaker systems, meaning there’s no chance of missing a referee’s call.

To Infinity, and beyond

The Infinity Screen in action on January 2, 2022. The screen displays in-game analysis, replays and stats.

Though SoFi stadium hosted its first game in September 2020, Covid protocols meant fans weren’t allowed inside until the following April. The Super Bowl represents something of a Hollywood premiere after a season of previews.

The stadium was designed by HKS, and Samsung worked with architectural drawings to optimize the spectator experience, says Mark Quiroz, vice president of marketing for Samsung Display Division. “The pure complexity of the building, from concept to design to construction was a challenging feat,” he told CNN.

“Timing was also a very real challenge, ensuring that the Infinity Screen was ready for the NFL season opening day, a day that cannot be moved,” he added. “This was also coupled with the early days of the pandemic, and the ability to put proper health protocols in place to protect the workers.”

Its proximity to Los Angeles International Airport means the playing field at SoFi Stadium has to be below ground level.

The need to innovate was paramount, however.

Some sports fans argue – in many cases rightly – that they can see more of the game and receive more in-game analysis from the comfort of their homes, and teams are having to work harder than ever on their stadium experiences.

Related: How athletes are pushing boundaries with the help of wearable tech

“There is always going to be competition, as the home viewing experience has become so good with larger and sharper screens, requiring venues and technology providers (to) raise the bar on what the live fan experience needs to become to continually attract fans and guests,” Quiroz said.

High stakes on the field, high tech off it

Super Bowl LVI is set to be the most high-tech iteration to date of the largest sporting event in the US.

The Super Bowl has dabbled in virtual reality since 2017, when highlights were available via the Fox Sports VR app. The technology has evolved and proliferated, and this year the entire game will be available to view in an immersive virtual theater run by VR events company Bigscreen in partnership with Meta.

Meanwhile for those watching on TV, broadcaster NBC will use new augmented reality (AR) functionality to integrate statistics and icons into the feeds delivered by around 40 cameras capturing the game.

A preview of "the Super Bowl Experience" exhibition at the Los Angeles Convention Center on February 4 showcased a history of Super Bowl Halftime Shows while teasing what is to come when artists Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dog, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar perform this weekend.

Commercial tie-ins are also turning to new user experiences on the “second screen” (a mobile or tablet while watching television).

Pepsi’s Halftime Show mobile app will offer exclusive content and AR features linked to the show’s performers Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dog, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar. Many brands plan to make the most of their astronomically expensive ad spots by supplementing their air time with AR to bring their products and characters into viewers’ living rooms. And it doesn’t end with the final whistle. After the game, rock band Foo Fighters will perform a concert in VR via Horizon Venues, an app available on Meta Quest headsets and Facebook Live.

Samsung’s next project is at Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets, where it aims to create the “most technologically advanced ballpark in the Major Leagues.”

And before you ask, yes, it’s going to involve another giant screen.