• Research from Virgin Media O2 finds that almost eight in 10 children would be excited to see a new technology added to a sport they watch, with 41% believing technology will improve sport
  • Smart balls with built-in sensors and cameras in footballs are named the technological developments children most want to see added to sport in the future
  • Flying cars and devices that fix broken bones are also popular amongst kids aged 10 to 16
  • The news comes as Virgin Media O2 partners with Ericsson to provide 5G connectivity for a nationwide tour of the augmented reality (AR) esport, Hado, as part of this year’s Children in Need appeal

New research from Virgin Media O2 reveals the technologies that children want to see added to their favourite sports, with quirky innovations including cameras in footballs and balls with built-in sensors topping the list.  The findings come as the company works with Ericsson to provide 5G connectivity for Children in Need’s augmented reality esport tournament.

Whilst VAR continues to cause havoc in the Premier League, almost eight in 10 children (79%) would be excited to see a new technology added to a sport they watch, according to new research from Virgin Media O2.

The most popular technological developments children want to see include smart balls with built in sensors (31%), cameras in footballs (31%), and virtual reality headsets for fans to see sport through the eyes of their favourite player (27%).

Some of the more creative innovations suggested to improve sports include devices that fix broken bones, flying cars, robot players, and even invisibility cloaks. Despite the current controversy surrounding the use of VAR in football, almost a quarter of children (23%) want to go even further and introduce robot referees.

The research finds that introducing technology to sport would make it more popular among children, with 25% saying they would watch more sports and 24% more likely to play. The sports that would see the biggest uptick in players include football (33%), swimming (15%), and tennis (13%), whilst football (37%), athletics (15%), and basketball (13%) would win more spectators.

Beyond traditional sports, esports are fast becoming popular amongst children. 30% of those surveyed said they have watched esports and 35% have played esports themselves. FIFA was the game of choice for 57% of young people, followed by Fortnite (51%) and Call of Duty (43%).

Virgin Media O2’s research comes as the telecoms company partners with Ericsson to provide 5G connectivity for a nationwide tour of the augmented reality esport, Hado, as part of BBC Children in Need’s Game to Give campaign.

The Hado game is a reinvention of dodgeball, involving players on opposing teams wielding virtual energy blasts and shields on a real-world court thanks to AR headsets and sensors. Teams across the country have faced each other as part of a national tournament to support this year’s BBC Children in Need Game to Give campaign, powered by a 5G standalone mobile private network at venues across the country.

The winning team from the regional tournament will be taking part in a specially commissioned live TV show, Game On! For BBC Children in Need, on BBC iPlayer and BBC Three at 7pm on Friday November 10th.

Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2 added: “For many years, sport has played a vital role in the health, happiness and development of children across the UK. Today’s children are growing up in the digital world, so it is no surprise to see such an appetite for technological innovations in traditional sports. Incorporating the latest technology can help ensure sports remain popular for many years to come.

“Whatever the future brings, it’s clear that connectivity will be crucial in underpinning new technologies and innovations. With our 5G rollout progressing at pace, we are excited to support this next wave of innovation and support technology to reinvent sports in the future.”


  • Smart balls with built in sensors
  • Cameras in footballs
  • Virtual reality headsets for fans so they can see sport through eyes of their favourite player
  • Eco-friendly sports stadiums
  • Injury prevention technology so players don’t get injured
  • Robot referees
  • Advanced safety technology to let coaches know if players are injured
  • Virtual fan interactions which let viewers speak to players
  • Underwater racing cars
  • Exoskeleton suits to make players stronger
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) sports commentary
  • Swimsuits which have motors on them
  • Trampolines in basketball
  • Teleportation on golf courses to make the game quicker
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) coaches


Journalists can contact the Virgin Media O2 press office on:
press@virginmediao2.co.uk 01753 565656
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