AT&T and Gallaudet University(1), a global provider of bilingual education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, collaborated on the development of a 5G-connected football helmet, which was designed to make the game more inclusive by enhancing on-field communication for student-athletes who use American Sign Language.
The helmet(2) was used for the first time in NCAA Division III competition during Gallaudet’s home game against Hilbert College, on Oct. 7, 2023.
“As a staple of college sports, we’re always exploring ways to use our expertise in connectivity to advance the way coaches, athletes and fans experience the game,” AT&T says in a news release. “When it came to developing the helmet, we saw an opportunity for 5G technology to make sports more inclusive—and there was no better partner to take possibility to reality than Gallaudet.”
The helmet is designed to allow coaches on the sideline to select a play from a tablet that will send the play to a lens inside the helmet. The quarterback wearing the helmet will receive the play in augmented reality on the digital display located within the visor. AT&T 5G provides the reliability and low latency for plays to be sent and received at a speed that keeps up with the pace of the game.
“We work out the same way as every other college football program, we practice the same way, we compete the same way,” says Coach Chuck Goldstein, head football coach, Gallaudet University. “The difference between coaching a hearing team compared to a Deaf team is first the communication. The AT&T 5G-connected helmet will change football.”
By displaying the coach’s play through augmented reality (AR), this technology eliminates a gap for deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes, making football more inclusive. It can also reduce miscommunication and unwarranted penalties, according to the organizations.
Further reading: Risk of Hearing Loss for Students in Sports
“The new AT&T 5G-connected helmet will have a major impact on the game of football, especially for our deaf and hard of hearing players who lacked direct access to communications with their coaches during their high school years,” says Shelby Bean, special teams coordinator and former player for Gallaudet University. “This will help to level the playing field for mainstreamed athletes. As a former player, I am very excited to see this innovative technology change our lives and the game of football itself.”
The applications for a 5G-connected helmet have reach beyond college football and could open possibilities of inclusion for any sport that requires helmets, according to the organizations.
“Together with Gallaudet, we are proving that connecting changes everything,” says Corey Anthony, senior vice president of network engineering and operations at AT&T. “Our expertise in connectivity combined with Gallaudet’s legacy of breaking down barriers has created a helmet that not only transforms the way deaf and hard of hearing athletes engage in sports but opened up endless possibility for innovation.”
1. AT&T is a supporter of the Gallaudet Bison.
2. Not for sale.