Sports Stadiums Are Turning to Immersive Sound to Keep Fans Engaged

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Sports Stadiums Are Turning to Immersive Sound to Keep Fans Engaged
Photo: Edge Sound Research

In 2022, the Minnesota Twins experimented with a new technology that brought fans the ability to physically feel the sounds they were hearing in the stadium in the back of their seats as part of a new immersive way to experience baseball.

The tech was made by Riverside-based startup Edge Sound Research, which built a mobile lounge – basically, a small seating section equipped with its technology and on wheels to travel around the stadium – for Twins fans to experience what it calls “embodied audio” around Target field. It was a bid on the Twins’ part to keep fans more engaged during the game, and Edge Sound Research CEO Valtteri Salomaki said the Twins were impressed.


“Feedback overall was great. That actually gave us the confidence to move away from us trying to do too much of a consumer product and double down on the venue side,” he said of Edge’s business plans.

Even after the coronavirus pandemic restrictions were lifted, sports team owners and stadium operators are struggling to gain new fans.

The NHL’s slumping ratings show a grim picture: Ratings for the league were down 22% in February, and attendance was down 6% on average last season. Some NBA teams hiked ticket prices to compensate for lackluster attendance last season, but overall attendance this season appeared to rebound, with only four teams posting negative fan growth. Most NBA stadiums were at least at 80% capacity or higher this season, though it remains to be seen if this growth will sustain.

NFL attendance took a big hit during the pandemic, but the size of the average NFL crowd grew by 3.5% last year. Die-hard fans will likely always want to turn out for their particular team. But in order to keep pace and grow, all sports leagues are embracing tech or other entertainment to differentiate themselves and entice first-time fans to become repeat ticket buyers. “Sports organizations to survive today have to not think of themselves as competing in sports, but competing in entertainment,” said Salomaki.

To compensate for the dipping attendance, some teams and stadium operators are turning to technology that can augment the traditional live sports experience. Some teams, including the LA Clippers, have even turned to virtual reality as a way to keep fans interested.

To that end, Edge Sound Research is one of seven international companies selected by the NBA as part of its research and development accelerator. Its technology is synced to the audio feeds of the broadcasters, commentators and stadium music and vibrates people’s seats when there’s audio stimuli. The goal is to make spectators “feel” every sound they’re hearing, and even the frequencies they might miss during a game.

Salomaki told dot.LA his cofounder Ethan Castro’s experience with hearing loss at a young age led him to experience sound through vibrations, which eventually was the inspiration for the company. Edge Sound Research sells both hardware and software. The hardware component is a pack of transducers, which vibrate back and forth, varying in intensity or cadence depending on what Edge’s software dictates.

Anyone who’s been to a concert and felt the bass in their chest or played a video game with a vibrating controller is familiar with the feeling of sounds producing haptic feedback. But according to Salomaki, Edge is going beyond augmenting typical sounds. For example, in a crowded stadium, it could boost engagement – it’s hard to ignore the baseball if you’re feeling the crack of a bat in your seat every time it’s hit.

“We send signals to each of those devices that vibrates it based off the material it’s attached to, to ensure that you hear and feel the entire frequency of sound consistently, no matter what you’re attaching the device to,” Salomaki explained. He called the technology “embodied audio.”

Salomaki added that when he first tried the technology it was a “holy s— moment.” Adding that,, “the way we as humans have always thought about audio is [that] audio is what you can hear. That was the wrong question to ask… audio engages not only what you hear, it’s also what you feel.”

The way audio is delivered hasn’t changed much since the dynamic speaker was invented in 1925, Salomaki noted. “Audio has been stuck to its invention a century ago, with speaker coils,” he said. That unfamiliarity with a truly immersive sound experience could be overwhelming – ask any kid who’s been literally blown away by a 4-D Imax movie. But Salomaki said ResonX, Edge’s software that controls the panels’ vibrations is made to ensure the tactile audio has a range of intensity. “My co-founder’s PhD shows you can actually feel up to 5,000 Hertz, and we want to give you that full range,” he said.

That said, it’s not just traditional sports that could take advantage of haptic seating. Salomaki said Edge’s goal is to dominate the stadium market, but also lean into applications at esports venues, especially given the tie-in with the pro “NBA 2K” esports league that kicked off a new season earlier this month.

In addition, Salomaki said that being a local company (both he and Castro are alumni of University of California, Riverside) makes him eager to add Edge Sound Research’s technology into LA County’s rich live entertainment ecosystem. “I care about the different clubs, venues and immersive museums and everything that lives in LA today,” he continued. “That’s where I would love to be able to start, because LA is a great playground.”

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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

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Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

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Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

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A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

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Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

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A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
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Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


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