A look at the virtual AO site. Source: Australian Open
The Australian Open will be entering new territory in 2022 by becoming the first Grand Slam tournament to make a foray into the metaverse.
Fans from around the world will be able to experience the Australian Open like never before, with a complete digital recreation of the Melbourne Park site available on the metaverse platform, Decentraland.
The Australian Open will stream the event through the 3D virtual reality platform from the tournament start date, January 17.
Fans will also have the opportunity to own one of the 6,776 non-fungible tokens (NFT) which come in the form of digital tennis balls that have been designed by local and international artists, as well as incorporating designs from tennis and Australian Open history.
Impression of the 'Art Ball' NFTs. Source: Australian Open
Each NFT, or ‘Art Ball’ as they’ve been named, will be linked to a designated spot (19x19cm) on the surface of one of the tennis courts at Melbourne Park. If a match-winning shot passes through a user's designated spot on the court, they will be airdropped exclusive footage of the winning shot as well as limited edition wearables and merchandise.
The NFTs will also be linked to live match data and statistics.
As a further reward for users, if one of the 11 championship winning points passes through a user's designated spot, they will receive the physical tennis ball from the point in a handcrafted case.
A look at Rod Laver Arena in Decentraland. Source: Australian Open
The move into the metaverse, in part, has been to combat the limitations that COVID-19 has brought to travel and live events. It gives tennis fans from all over Australia and the world the chance to experience the Australian Open without leaving their homes.
“What we’ve found in the last two years is that we’re challenged with how many fans can actually come on-site now and where they can come from. It’s much more of a localised community that comes in,” AO Metaverse Project Manager Ridley Plummer said in an interview with CoinDesk.
“We kind of wanted to take it back to the world and provide those people that can’t make it to Melbourne at the moment with an experience that is as close as we can possibly get to bringing them into Melbourne Park and giving them that on-site experience."
More information on the project can be found via the AO Metaverse Twitter page.