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Verizon offers Indy 500 fans an AR-enhanced peek at the 2020 race

With no fans in the stands, the company is using its 5G service to offer an interactive, socially distanced way to enjoy the race weekend.

The Indianapolis 500 is happening Sunday, and unlike any Indy 500 before it, there won't be any fans at the track, after race organizers decided to close the grandstands over coronavirus concerns. Thankfully, if you're a fan, you're not totally out of luck, because Verizon is leveraging its 5G network to put you at the Brickyard with a new augmented reality experience.

The experience, which Verizon announced Friday, also includes the Saturday public driver's meeting. The driver's meeting is an Indy tradition for fans, and the experience offers plenty of up-close coverage of the drivers and lets fans virtually wander through the pit garages of all 33 cars.

"Thanks to Verizon, fans around the globe will be given unprecedented digital access to the biggest personalities and the most exciting behind-the-scenes action of this year's Indianapolis 500," said Jonathan Gibson, executive vice president, Penske Corporation, in a statement. "From 5G powered Race Day footage to a public driver's meeting on an innovative platform like BlueJeans, we're excited to team up with Verizon for an epic Race Weekend." 

Verizon is also using 5G on a special camera placed near the start/finish line, which will wirelessly stream video to producers on and off the site to be incorporated into the main broadcast. It also allows other cameras to operate without bulky wires, freeing them to move quickly and efficiently throughout the Indy compound.

"With so many sports fans unable to attend live events due to the pandemic, 5G can help bring them into the heart of the action and provide a new and immersive viewing experience using applications like augmented and virtual reality," said Nicki Palmer, chief product development officer at Verizon, in a statement. "For broadcasters, 5G means no wires on the track giving camera people the ability to move around quickly and gather various shots. It also means producers don't need to travel and be on-site at sporting events enabling them to produce broadcasts from anywhere in the world."

The Indy driver's meeting kicked off Saturday at 10 a.m. ET and is viewable on Verizon's YouTube and Twitter channels. The race itself starts Sunday at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on NBC.

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