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Minnesota Vikings Take Fans on an RFID-enabled Voyage

The football team is using interactive technology that allows game attendees to participate in the same kind of fitness tests that the players must undertake, and to record their scores via NFC-tagged wristbands.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 25, 2016

This year, NFL team Minnesota Vikings will be playing at their new home, the U.S. Bank Stadium, located in downtown Minneapolis, and the franchise has been using that opportunity to find new ways in which to excite fans with high-tech entertainment designed to make them feel like they're part of the team. The result of that mission is Vikings Voyage, a 10,000-square-foot interactive exhibition space where fans can catch passes while wearing a virtual reality Vikings helmet, run shuttle drills against a current Vikings player's pace, and hit a tackling sled that measures impact. The space allows fans to track scores and compete against other visitors by means of bracelets containing passive Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID tags.

"The spirit of the new stadium is getting fans as close to the action as we can," says Tanya Dreesen, the Minnesota Vikings' partnership activation and special projects VP. "It's a way to feel like you're in the huddle, even if you're not in the huddle."

The Vikings Voyage, shown here in an artist's rendering, allows fans to test their own athletic skills and use NFC RFID technology to access their scores.
The Vikings Voyage is part of that effort to bring fans into the huddle. Along with interactive games, the Voyage will include a full-size ship hull that features a 27-foot projection screen displaying historic and modern-day videos of the team. Fans will learn about the history of the Vikings' uniforms and equipment through a transparent OLED screen. Closing out the space will be a museum experience featuring memorabilia, infographics and photographs.

Vikings Voyage was designed by Dimensional Innovations, based in Overland Park, Kan. The 23-year-old company began as a signage firm for movie theaters, and expanded to a variety of technology solutions over time, DI reports, including interactive electronics and touchscreens.

The Minnesota Vikings' Tanya Dreesen
In 2015, DI and the Vikings began discussing ways in which technology could be used within a 10,000-square-foot space located above the stadium's gift shop, says Brent Haag, Dimension Innovations' account director. The team had considered erecting a hall of fame in that space, since all ticket holders walk through the area on their way into the stadium, but the team wanted a Vikings Voyage that was technology-oriented, according to Curtis Walker, DI's technology director.

The resulting system is expected to be up and running for the first preseason game in late August. Upon arriving at the stadium, the ticket holder can first proceed to a touchscreen, to receive a purple wristband containing an NXP Semiconductors NTAG 213 chip compliant with the ISO 14443 standard. The ID number encoded on the wristband's chip is then linked to that individual's name in the DI software, which resides locally on a stadium server.

The system was designed to collect only a name and no other details, Walker explains, so that fans can quickly obtain their wristband and free up the touchscreen for the next user. They can then don the wristband and begin walking through the Vikings Voyage. There are a variety of tests and activities inside for them to complete, including four activities for which they can use their RFID bracelets to track their scores automatically and then share those scores with friends and family members via social media.

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