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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at the 1st and Future event on Saturday. Via TechCrunch.

The NFL loves technology and its impact on football.

That was the message from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who spoke briefly Saturday morning at “1st and Future,” a sports tech startup pitch-off event organized by the NFL and TechCrunch at the Stanford University campus — just a short drive from the high-tech home of Sunday’s Super Bowl, Levi’s Stadium.

The commissioner said that innovative technology “makes our game better” and helps improve the experience for fans, whether they are inside the stadium or watching remotely from a connected device.

“I think it will have an impact on the future of our athletes,” Goodell added. “For us, technology is something we embrace and love and we believe it’s going to make us all a better league going forward.”

Goodell noted that the league picked Levi’s Stadium to host Super Bowl 50 in part because “we know this is the heart of innovation and technology.”

“When we talk about Super Bowl 50, we talk about an event that we think will be watched on more connected devices than ever in history,” he said. “We hope it will be the largest sporting event watched on more connected devices. We hope that we’ll have more apps and more social ways to interact with fans at this Super Bowl. And we are certain … that we’re going to have a stadium in a downtown area that allows our fans to be more connected when they walk into this stadium.”

Technology is certainly in the spotlight at the Super Bowl this year, perhaps more than at any other point in the history of the big game.  With Super Bowl 50 approaching on Sunday (here’s how to watch it without a cable subscription) companies are eager to show off their innovations in Silicon Valley. It’s everywhere, from the on-field cameras to SAP’s geeky Fan Zone to Uber’s involvement to the advanced infrastructure at Levi’s Stadium and millions of dollars that wireless carriers are investing to ensure fans stay connected during the game.

Saturday’s 1st and Future” event echoed the league’s focus and commitment to new technology. The NFL invited a group of startups to pitch their ideas to team owners and executives, along with judges like Nike CEO Mark Parker and venture capitalist Bill Gurley. The companies focused on one of three categories: “The Future Stadium” (improving the fan experience at games), “Bringing Home The Game” (improving the at-home viewing experience), and “Tomorrow’s Athlete” (improving the performance and safety of athletes).

Microsoft demonstrated one vision for home use of 'smart glasses" on Tuesday with a video showing how NFL fans could use HoloLens to enhance the viewing experience in the future.
Microsoft demonstrated how NFL fans could use HoloLens to enhance the viewing experience in the future.

The NFL also hosted a separate event this week in Silicon Valley with Microsoft, which signed a five-year, $400 million sponsorship deal with the league back in 2013. The Redmond tech giant discussed the role of its technology in pro football — you may have seen coaches and players using Surface tablets on the sidelines — and unveiled a video showing how its HoloLens augmented reality device can be used by sports fans while they watch a game on TV.

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