Author: Suzanne McKinnon, Investment Specialist
Published: 11 MAR 2021
Digital and Creative Technologies

With a global audience expected to exceed 500 million, the 2021 America’s Cup has become a showcase for some of Auckland’s most innovative technology companies.

Advanced technology such as real-time 3D imagery and collecting athlete biometric data is capturing both the imagination of audiences and the attention of billionaire investors. We’ve examined some of the ways Auckland-based tech companies have grabbed the opportunities presented by the America’s Cup.

Creating a virtual race

America's Cup winning technology Virtual Eye

The Virtual Eye sailing system recreates an entire race in 3D and real time by taking data from the boats and combining it with mark, timing and wind information. Created by the Auckland studio team at Animation Research’s Sports Division, Virtual Eye lets people experience every moment of racing, no matter their level of knowledge of sailing.

Displaying timing information from starts, mark rounding and finishes in real time, Virtual Eye is also an invaluable tool for immediate review and post-race analysis for teams and match adjudicators, changing the way the competition is officiated, and speeding up decisions and protocols.

Whether it’s during television coverage, on a mobile app, in team headquarters, or in a hospitality suite out on the water, this technology brings people closer to the race than ever before, heightening the drama and excitement of the America’s Cup.

Gyro cameras fitted to chase boats

The organising company America’s Cup Events expect the event to exceed half a billion views/viewers from around the world, and there’s Kiwi technology and ingenuity behind the incredible footage.

The dance of the helicopters used to film the America’s Cup for its record-breaking international audience can be almost as dramatic as the race itself.

‘You’ve got to have your wits about you,’ says Auckland pilot Tony Monk, who along with camera-operator son Blair captures images seen by sailing fans everywhere. ‘It’s not by choice you’re flying sideways, backwards and all around.’

The camera chase boat – which transmits images from the helicopters – is a recycled Emirates Team NZ catamaran. It’s been converted to keep up with AC75s going nearly 100 km/h and is kitted out with world-leading gyro camera systems from New Zealand company Shotover.

‘There’s no other boat like this in the world,’ says Clint Jones of America’s Cup Events. ’It really is a show-off of everything great about New Zealand marine and New Zealand innovation.’

Improving athlete performance

Technology can never replace human insight and experience in sports coaching, but it can enhance it. Sports organisations are using computer vision, AI and machine learning to track, assess and signpost athletes’ every action, supporting coaching and advancing injury prevention and athlete health.

The same technology is used in the video game development industry to monitor players and adjust game features and settings to enhance their experience and performance.

Global game development entrepreneur Gabe Newell spotted the similarities between his own game development and Emirates Team New Zealand’s sailing design, continuous evaluation and improvement. ‘I go into their offices,’ says Newell, ‘and they look like a video game production house.’ Newell has become a ‘team-mate’ for Team New Zealand. 

Growing interest in biosciences and in hormone monitoring is also impacting technology. The athletes who operate these incredibly sophisticated machines need to be operating at peak performance, and access to biometric data can make the tiny difference between winning and losing.

Turning excitement into energy

Data about what fans do, and hence want, is invaluable to sponsors. For Genesis Energy, a biometric fan shirt fitted with wearable technology has become a way to engage with Cup fans while also giving back to the community.

‘We know how much energy New Zealand fans put into supporting our nation,’ says Genesis, ‘so we thought, what if we measured the energy Kiwis put into supporting Team New Zealand and gave it back to schools?’

The Genesis Supporter Shirt contains state-of-the-art wearable technology which monitors heart rate, movement, stress levels and calories burnt when watching the America’s Cup.

In a world first, Genesis measures the calories burned by shirt-wearing supporters during a race, then averages and multiplies the figure by 5 million to represent the whole of New Zealand supporting our team. That total is then converted into free power for Genesis-powered schools.

Emirates Team New Zealand ranks third on sports tech list

In another win, the New Zealand team has appeared on the first-ever sport technology power list. The Sports Technology Annual Review and Industry Power List recognises who’s leading technology development across the entire sport industry.

Emirates Team New Zealand came in third on the list, behind only Formula 1 and the Tour de France. ’It’s really cool and it’s great for the team to actually be recognised,’ says Emirates Team New Zealand’s head of design, Dan Bernasconi. ‘We’re a team of over 130 people and 30 of those are engineers right across the disciplines. We cover a lot of ground and we’re all working hard to push technology forward.’

It’s impressive that New Zealand represents just 1% of the geographic spread of the list entrants, but still achieved third place.

Behind this success is a city with a commitment to excellence and innovation, and a nation whose passion and commitment can take it to the top.

As Clint Jones says, ’The Kiwis involved with the America’s Cup really are making it New Zealand’s Cup.’

Find out more

Contact Investment Specialist Joe Rouse to learn more about investing in Auckland, New Zealand.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information on potential investment opportunities in Auckland and is not intended to be used as a substitute for financial advice. The views and opinions expressed are those of the relevant author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Auckland Unlimited. Auckland Unlimited disclaims all liability in connection with any action that may be taken in reliance on this article, and for any error, deficiency, flaw or omission contained in it.