The NFL will test the expanded use of Microsoft’s Surface at Sunday night’s Pro Bowl, with the referees using the tablet for video replays for the first time. In a related move, players and coaches will also be able to review video on the Microsoft devices, expanding beyond their existing use of the tablet to view still images during regular games.
That’s the report from the Associated Press, which says that Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 will be used in the tests. The device currently used during regular NFL games is the Surface Pro 2, featuring a specialized application that lets players review images on the device.
For the officials, the use of the Surface for replays means they won’t need to take the time to go “under the hood” to review a play. Instead, there will be an NFL staffer on the sidelines, holding a Surface Pro 3 with headphones, and wearing a backpack filled with wireless radios for communication.
The tests could lead to expanded use of the Microsoft Surface next preseason, and perhaps the regular season after that, if it’s approved by the NFL competition committee.
Troy Vincent, the NFL’s football operations chief, tells the AP: “The test in the Pro Bowl gives us the opportunity to see the practicality of the technology in game-time situations, make adjustments or improvements where necessary, and also gauge the usefulness of it to the officials. Certainly, we believe it is an enhancement that we would like to integrate in the future.”
Under Microsoft’s $400 million, five-year contract with the NFL, players and coaches this season started ditching the traditional paper black-and-white images of plays used to review previous possessions. Even with that deal, though, the company has struggled at times to get NFL announcers to refer to the Surface by name.