Creating future emotional experiences that extend fandom

From the perspective of “Co-Creation,” the “SESSIONS” series features dialogues that introduce the activities of Sony's diverse employees to create Kando (emotion), based on Sony’s Purpose to “fill the world with emotion, through the power of creativity and technology.” Through conversations between Sony employees and our various partners, this series gives a candid look at scenes from real Sony projects, demonstrating what kinds of “Co-Creation” are enabled by the combination of Sony's creativity and technology with the efforts of business partners and creators, and what kind of Kando (emotion) these initiatives spread around the world.

In this issue, we would like to introduce the Official Virtual Fan Engagement Partnership that Sony entered into with Manchester City Football Club ("Manchester City") in 2021. How did this project, which leverages Sony's technology and entertainment expertise to expand new sports experiences around the world, begin? What are the new ways to increase fan engagement with technology? Will the sharing of emotions be realized in the future? Masashige Komatsu of Sony Group Corporation and Nuria Tarré, Chief Marketing and Fan Experience Officer of City Football Group, talk to us about the project.

What is the Official Virtual Fan Engagement Partnership?

Aiming to "create a new fan community in a virtual space for the next generation," the Proof of Concept (PoC) partnership between Manchester City and Sony was announced on November 30, 2021. The project aims to increase fan engagement with Manchester City's fans around the world by realistically recreating Manchester City's home stadium, the Etihad Stadium (Manchester, UK), in a 3D virtual space, and to realize a new fan community in the field of sports entertainment. This is only made possible by utilising Sony's advanced technological capabilities and entertainment expertise in the field of entertainment, and why it is the only company capable of realizing such a project in the field of sports entertainment.



【Co-creation partner】
Nuria Tarré
Chief Marketing & Fan Experience Officer
City Football Group

【Official Virtual Fan Engagement Partnership lead】
Masashige Komatsu, General Manager,
New Business Exploration Division,
Business Development Platform, Sony Group Corporation

Co-Creation of Sony and Manchester City

A project in which a wide variety of companies in the Sony Group work together

—The Official Virtual Fan Engagement Partnership between Sony and Manchester City. Who are the members of this partnership to create an online fan community for the next generation?

Masashige Komatsu:
Regarding our project member from Sony, the technology development is led by engineers from the R&D Center.
Experience planning people from the game industry and members of Sony Music Entertainment are also participating in the experience planning.
We are leveraging Sony's technology and entertainment expertise. Taking full advantage of the diverse business expertise only Sony has.

Nuria Tarré:
It's very impressive to see the different skills that you brought to the table for this project.
We can see the variety of technologies from UX designers to people that are in Europe, people here in Japan.
And they make the project very rich on our side as well.

—What value do you hope to bring to Manchester City fans through this project?

We believe in the value of providing our services to communities of interest.
By communities of interest, we mean groups of people who share inspiring experiences and interests - like fans with the same interest.
We can offer them a place where they can comfortably come gather, at any time.

From a Manchester City perspective, we embrace technology always because we believe technology can disrupt the way fans may engage locally and globally, but for us it is a great opportunity to keep exploring what the next generation of football fans will need and how they will consume football. By combining Sony's technology and our unique position in this space and our knowledge of football, we hope we can combine and find new ways for fans to engage.

About Virtual Stadium

—By realistically recreating Manchester City's home stadium, the Etihad Stadium, in a three-dimensional virtual space, fans around the world will be able to experience new sports games in the same location.

Through collaboration with the Manchester City team, we would like to provide exciting events that can only be experienced in this space.
It is also important for the fans that this is an official space that is created together with the Manchester City team.

The way we look at the virtual Etihad Stadium is as a virtual sports entertainment space.
A place for fans to gather with the same shared passion, which is Manchester City's fandom. By having this shared passion, hopefully fans that have never met before and maybe don't have the other ways to interact will actually meet, discuss and maybe become friends.
But definitely discuss a lot about how we play and hopefully wishing the best for the club too to keep growing.

—What kind of new sports experience will fans be able to enjoy at the "Etihad Stadium" in the 3D virtual space?

We are working on making it possible to sense the players' motions and reproducing them in 3DCG.
When completed, we can view the actions of the players from free viewpoints that were never possible before.

This is being able to look at highlights through different angles, how these goals have been played through the players eyes, for instance, or through a point of view near the bench or through Pep's point of view.
That's going to be quite unique and I suspect very enjoyable for our fans. Beyond this, I also think there's going to be unique ways to discover what is behind the scenes of a stadium or to imagine what could be behind the scenes of a stadium by creating experiences, games, opportunities for fans to meet and discuss gathering places.

We utilize this epic technology (Hawk-Eye Innovations' SkeleTRACK) in this metaverse. So we would like to bring the real world into the virtual world. So I think these are just one differentiation in this preparation.

A Metaverse is only a tool, and the content will allow the audience to experience Sony's Purpose to "fill the world with emotion through the power of creativity and technology".

Challenges Manchester City face

—What are the challenges Manchester City faces today and what is your vision for increasing engagement with fans?

So a global football brand like Manchester City has always the challenge of connecting fans globally. We know that only 1% of our fans will ever make it to the real product, which is the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England. So exploring new ways of engaging fans is a priority for us. I think what is really unique with what we are exploring here is that we are at the intersection of technology, sports and entertainment.
We want to be ahead of the game working with you on this but we feel quite excited about the transformation this can bring to our fan engagement strategy as a whole.

The pandemic made us think about the way we use technology to engage with our fans. We started producing a live matchday show, which by the way, it was so successful that even post-COVID we've kept the show right, so it has pushed us to find new ways to engage fans. And actually the more we explore and then what we see, fans are avid for more content and for consuming different types of content.
And producing content and engaging content is probably one of our priorities to make sure fans stay connected with us.
I think the metaverse project we are exploring, you can go even a step further and explore the boundaries of what's behind the reality, even on and push the imagination of our fans in doing things that that blurs the limit of what they normally do.

A Vision to Revitalize the Sports World

—We asked about the partnership between Manchester City and Sony and its future in revitalizing the sports world as a whole.

So in the sports export industry, there are many other sports besides football that have global fans. We would like to extend the value of our services to these sports as well.
So this is my ambition.

So when thinking about the opportunities these new technologies or the metaverse world could bring into the sports industry, I think it can be truly disruptive.
It can transform the way sports organizations think about engaging with that business, whether it's globally or locally. It would offer even a complimentary way to engage with fans.
Sometimes technology will have to mature, but if we imagine what we could end up doing appropriate for Manchester City and I mean ultimate, I’d like to see a real game being recreated in the metaverse world. We know this is not possible yet for different media rights reasons, but we believe the technology that you have and you are developing could potentially get us to that point.
And that would be extremely transformative and exciting for the football industry.

—What would you like to do at the Etihad Stadium, which will be created in a virtual space?

Well you'd be surprised. I'm going to tell you.
You going to see my avatar is going to carry my name. He's probably going to have a different skin, a different shade, different abilities. And the ones I have and that is actually what is exciting about this world. I'm actually looking forward to seeing some of my colleagues and some of our friends and interact with them in a different way.
Will you join and have some fun in these new metaverse, will we?
We are building.

Of course. So we would like to join that metaverse. So using my avatar, I'm looking forward to making our avatars special, new and something different as well..

Yeah. That's exciting. Can be a different person?

Yes. More handsome.

—Through this project, Sony and Manchester City are working together to provide the world with a new emotional experience, and what kind of future do you have in mind?

This is about fandom and sharing fandom. So of course, we've activities you can do in this matter of Metaverse world, but first and foremost it is about sharing emotions. So conveying these emotions in a virtual environment is one of the challenges that Sony has taken on board and conveying that passion through.
But advanced ways of expressing emotion as an advanced ways of jumping into the stadium in a way that you would normally not be allowed to do on the pitch.
And hopefully we give a lot of possibilities for fans to do that.
And interestingly, that breaks language barriers as well. Right. Passion and emotion is something that is easily understood by anyone around the world.
And whether you're introverted or extroverted, maybe this opens an opportunity for people to be at the same level.

So now we are preparing so many emotions to express that user emotion.
For example, fans from all over the world gathered at the virtual Etihad Stadium and held up scarves at the same time.
This is also a very interesting motion.

What is “Co-Creation” for Sony?

—What would you like to do at Etihad Stadium, which will be created in a virtual space?

I think it is creating new value. I believe that we can only create this new value by combining our knowledge, not bounded by the existing rules of the industry.
After we started talking with Manchester City, I noticed that they have a lot in common with the entertainment industry. At the same time, there are some differences and many discoveries and lessons I‘ve learned. I believe that combining each other’s knowledge is the best way to create a wonderful new experience.
In that context, this is very exciting for me. I never thought I would be working on a project with the English Premier League Champions, Manchester City.

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STEAM education fostering the power to create new value -
Sony Global Education's vision of education for the future

Programming education has become compulsory in elementary schools and children using tablets in the classroom, the educational environment surrounding children is undergoing major changes. Established in 2015, Sony Global Education (SGE) was one of the first companies to take notice of opportunities for new educational businesses such as STEAM* education and blockchain-based transcripts. The robot programming kit, KOOV is now being used in over 1000 classrooms nationwide. In this interview, we spoke with Masaaki Isozu, the founder and current chairman of SGE, about his ideas regarding the education of the future.
*STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.

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