Microsoft partners with the NFL to speed up instant replay challenges

In NFL's hands
In NFL's hands

Touchdown for Microsoft. Microsoft will provide the National Football League with Surface Pro 3 tablets during the 2015-2016 season.

As you're accustomed to seeing during NFL games, the Surface Pro 3 will be used to conduct in-game scouting and playcalling. But now Microsoft and the NFL are partnering on a video system that will enable coaches to initiate Instant Replay Challenges. Additionally, referees will be able to review calls directly from the field to determine whether a call should be overturned.

The NFL used the Surface Pro 2 for in-game play analysis during the last football season. The replay test will be conducted during 20 pre-season games.

How it works

Typically NFL head coaches will radio in to other coaches positioned high above the field within the stadium to determine if a play should be challenged. Those coaches will watch replays on television monitors to see whether or not an error has been committed. With the Surface Pro 3 in the mix, head coaches will now be able to watch the replays instantly and make an on-field determination.

Fifty Surface Pro 3 tablets will be provided for every NFL game. Twenty-five for each team, with 13 on each sideline and 12 for coaches seated within the stadium. The tablets are not capable of doing anything but interacting with NFL-approved playcalling and replay software.

There will be a few alterations to enhance the Surface Pro 3 for the NFL environment. A whiteboard feature will allow users to draw plays directly onto the tablet. The tablet will come with an attached pen that enables users to scribble onto video stills and images in four different colors. The Surface Pro 3 designed for NFL use will come with a ruggedized case that can withstand drops and misplaced tackles.


Additionally, numerous outlets are reporting that Microsoft is working with the NFL to use HoloLens to conduct 3D tabletop play analysis. This would enable coaches and players to examine in-game activity from multiple angles rather than on a flat two-dimensional surface.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a Microsoft Surface Hub being used during pre-game and halftime planning sessions. I'll keep my eyes open during the next episode of HBO's Hard Knocks.