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All NFL Players Are Getting RFID Chips This Season


In terms of size, speed, and strength, NFL football players have always been superhuman. This season, they’re all about to become cyborgs, too.

Last year, the NFL tested out Zebra Technologies MotionWorks RFID system in 18 stadiums to track vector data: A player’s speed, distance, and direction traveled during each game in real-time. This season, that wireless tracking technology will be embedded in every NFL player’s shoulder pads, and viewers at home can see all that data come to life in the redesigned NFL 2015 app for Xbox One and Windows 10.

Within the app, there’s a feature called Next Gen Stats that turns each player into an digital avatar for a “Next Gen Replay.” In coordination with a highlight clip posted shortly after it occurs live on the field, Next Gen Replay displays every player’s speed at each moment of a play, lets you toggle between players, and keeps track of the actual yardage a running back has run in a play or in a game.

“We will tie Next Gen Stats into every replay that comes into the Xbox,” says Todd Stevens, Executive Producer at Microsoft. “Replays like a one-yard touchdown run, you don’t really need Next Gen Stats. But some of these plays, like a long pass play, are truly spectacular. We wanted to give them a bit of special sauce.”

To do so, the Next Gen Stats section will also include features that highlight players rather than plays. At launch, which will be in late August, there will be a special section called Afterburner that highlights the speediest players in the NFL over time. More of those player-highlight collections are planned for the future in a section called Top Playmakers.

Tying speed, position, and distance data to 22 separate football players, animating them on a virtual field, and aggregating all their data over time might seem like a process that would take a while to add to each highlight clip. But according to Stevens, as soon as a highlight clip is posted to, the Xbox NFL app will have all that stuff ready to go for each video.