When games eventually resume, fans might not be in the stands, but that doesn’t mean their voices won’t be heard.
A Toronto-based startup, ChampTrax, is now testing technology that would allow fans watching games at home to cheer into microphones in their smartphones, tablets and computers and be heard inside stadiums and arenas.
This is a case of a crisis spurring innovation. Usually the goal of ChampTrax is providing real-time sports analytics in an understandable format. In short, ChampTrax delivers performance data on athletes to help in personal training, evaluation of talent and preparation for opponents in sports including baseball, basketball and hockey.
“We were working on a player tracking system for the last two years,” said Elias Andersen, the 19-year-old founder and CEO of ChampTrax.
“We were looking to bring the systems to market in April or May, but that got shut down by the coronavirus, so we had to make a pivot to stay in business. And we found a market where fans have been underserved for a long time, and that’s watching from home.”
Through a new product called HearMeCheer, ChampTrax will take audio from fans watching at home and put it through one audio stream and then give it to broadcasters and to feeds in stadiums and arenas. The sound from fans will be amalgamated into crowd noise using low-latency algorithms.
ChampTrax hopes HearMeCheer will be looked at as software to increase fan engagement. On the HearMeCheer platform, there are options for trivia games and predictive exercises where fans are asked what will happen in games. With a Facebook sign-in, fans will be able to listen and watch with their friends.
HearMeCheer went through a successful trial during the just-completed NFL Draft and the company has been working with Eleven Sports, which broadcasts the Chinese Professional Baseball League that is playing games in empty stadiums in Taiwan.
“We have had lot of interest from a number of leagues and teams,” Andersen said. “We have some offers from teams for trial games and we will be announcing some pretty big partnerships in the next couple of weeks. There is a lot of work to do, but we are pretty excited about the path we are on.”
The path Andersen is on has been wild. After a year and half as an electrical engineering major at the University of Toronto, the 19-year old entrepreneur decided to leave school in January to devote all of his attention to his company.
On March 12, Andersen was at Spring Training in Arizona pitching baseball teams on ChampTrax sports analytics systems.
“I was on a flight back to Toronto and got a message from two developers on my team,” Andersen said. “They separately had the same idea for HearMeCheer. Anytime two different people you really respect have the same idea it is very easy to move forward and see where it goes.”
It should be noted those two developers on Andersen’s team are his father, Tom, and brother, Evan. The family business is hoping the HearMeCheer might help with that sense of family a communal activity like watching sports can provide.
“It’s been a wild eight weeks or so,” Andersen said. “Our mission is to help get sports teams back to playing where they can and try to get them back to as close to normal as possible.”