Digi explores prototype to enable the visually impaired to experience football

In the spirit of bringing all Malaysians together to celebrate our 62nd National Day, Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd (Digi) introduced Footbraille, the first of its kind solution to help our visually impaired peers experience the full euphoria of a football match.

The Footbraille prototype and its benefits to this community makes its debut in the company’s national day video this year.

“We constantly look for inspiration and new ways that technology can help build meaningful connections. We strongly believe that all Malaysians should be given the opportunity to benefit from the power of the internet and technology.

“In this instance, we married the passion and patriotism of our nation’s athletes to one of our most iconic sporting moments that happened over 39 years ago – when Malaysia won 2-1 against South Korea in the 1980 Olympics Moscow qualifiers.

“By applying technology innovatively, we are able to be inclusive to connect the visually impaired communities to what matters to them, enabling them to enjoy and pursue their passion for football in an immersive manner,” said Joachim Rajaram, Digi’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer.

“It was a challenging but inspiring journey for us, especially when we saw the expressions of wonder and delight on the faces of the Malaysian blind footballers as they felt the match for the first time. It affirms our belief that our efforts to ensure no one is left behind as the world moves forward digitally is well worth it,” he added.

Footbraille is a prototype that is set to change the way the visually impaired experience the thrills and the spills of a football match as their sighted peers would.

Developed by Digi, it is a touch table which syncs wirelessly to a device with a custom software that inputs the ball’s movement, and then creates a touch-based response allowing users to “feel” the match. This experience is enhanced by a live match commentary to help users completely immerse themselves in the game.

Multiple Footbraille devices can be simultaneously connected to allow for several users to experience a match at the same time.

In the next phase, Footbraille will be put to the test to capture a live or training football match, and transmit the game in real-time. This solution can be adapted for other types of sporting events and use cases.

The video below depicts Sunny, Head Coach of the National Blind Football Team. An inspiring man, he proudly leads an amazing bunch of footballers who, in spite of not having sight, are playing the beautiful game and playing it better than many of us. He introduces us to his boys and one can feel his pride and fatherly love towards them as he does.

Film Director Barney Chua asks them, “If there is one game you would like to watch, what would it be?”

“The 1980 Olympic qualifying game, where Malaysia beat Korea 2-1!” They know the game by heart. Now it’s time to see it. And that’s where Footbraille comes in.

“We’ve always been dreaming of ideas for brands that go beyond marketing, and have an impact on society. We don’t always succeed, but we try”, said Alvin Teoh, ECD of Naga DDB Tribal.

“Whether in the form of a film, a project, through technology, or a mash-up of everything, the aim is to harness the power of ideas and creativity to create something that people will care about. And to think that this idea happened over a random conversation at a mamak stalls is just so surreal,” he adds.

Soon, everyone on this project will get to witness that special moment when three members of the National Blind Football team experience that 1980 game like never before.

Coach Sunny leads them to their seats. They get a feel of the device set before them. Then as Coach Sunny narrates the game to the video that is played, the three footballers feel the ‘ball’ moving across the ‘field’ beneath their fingers. That’s how Footbraille works. The movement of the ball is pre-tracked and fed to a tablet that controls the ‘ball’ in real time on the little patch of green beneath their hands. This way, the blind get to experience a recorded football match, and soon, even a live one.

We had the honour of witnessing the above experience firsthand, sitting quietly at the side and watching them express frustration at a foul, and laughing and cheering at a goal. It was pretty moving.

This project would not come to be without the collaborative spirit and dedication of many people. From Barney of Mojo Films who helped birth the idea with us over food (it can’t get more Malaysian than that), to Ang of Expedio Designs, a key player in all things tech, and of course to the peeps at Digi, whose involvement, support and advice guided the project to where it is today.

“In Digi, we constantly look for new ways that technology can help connect people to what truly matters to them and help build meaningful connections. And with this breakthrough technology, all Malaysians should have equal opportunity to benefit from the power of internet and technology”, said Bernard Lee, Digi’s Head of Marketing Services.

So, the first phase of Footbraille has passed and we have witnessed the impact of the beautiful game on both the visually impaired as well as those who still possess the gift of sight. From this we realise that there is great potential here.

“Football is a great unifier,” said Barney Chua, “Those who had experienced the euphoria back then are keen to share that feeling and experience with other football fans, even those who weren’t born back then, and those who don’t have the ability to a game live. Thanks to the technology that we have today, we managed to make that wish come true. And by doing so, prove that football and tech can come together to make a nation stronger”, he adds.

“Did we just make history? We would like to think so. This is only the beginning. The next phase would involve a live match. Here, and perhaps far beyond our borders. One can dream right? If a mamak-food inspired idea can get to this spot, it can go far.” Alvin added.

Credit List
Executive Creative Director : Alvin Teoh
Deputy Executive Creative Director : Paul Lim
Creative Director : Ellison Fernandez
Creative Group Head : Shireen Ang
Copywriter : Audrey Wong & Izzul Iqram
Art Director : Yeo Lee Kee
Business Unit Head : Kevin Teh
Associate Brand Director : Ong Ee May
Project Manager : Elizabeth Anita
AV Producer : Stephanie Ooi
Film Director : Barney Chua
Assistant Director : Zekry Mazlan
Director of Photography : Jeerasak Intasa
Producer : Stephanie Ng Yu Lin
Post Production : Mecanicca EFX Post
Audio Production : Teoh Eng Hooi
Editor : Faiz izal
Technical Director : Ang Tee Chian

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