AKQA: Tennis Australia’s Action Audio

Action Audio image of blue tennis court and green ball

AKQA: Tennis Australia’s Action Audio

Setting a new standard for accessibility in sport

Almost 285 million people worldwide aren’t able to enjoy live sport to the fullest due to visual impairment.

For people living with blindness or low vision, the experience of broadcast sport is severely limited. On television, sports coverage relies heavily on visuals, while radio commentary can be too slow to give fans a true sense of the action.

Action Audio is a world-first system for augmenting live screened and in-person sports with sound and is designed to give those who are visually impaired the ability to follow games in real-time.

Developed by AKQA in partnership with Tennis Australia and Monash University, Action Audio draws on ball monitoring using computer vision to emphasise key moments of play. It does so with a 3D sound design system that has been developed in collaboration with the blind and low vision community.

For many visually impaired sports fans, Action Audio provides the first opportunity to follow the speed and action of a live game.

Action Audio launched as a pilot during the finals of the 2021 Australian Open tennis tournament. After the success of the pilot, Action Audio was made available across every match at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena for the 2022 tournament.

Via Australian Open radio and Google Assistant, audiences could listen to Action Audio together with the live radio commentary of each game.

Using voice commands, visually impaired tennis fans could ask Google to stream the Action Audio live feed and access information about how Action Audio works, to learn more about the experience.

Action Audio sets a new standard for accessibility in sport. Along with ball monitoring via computer vision at over 80 tennis tournaments worldwide – and in other sports such as cricket and football – it creates a huge opportunity to open access for millions of visually impaired sports fans.

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