Manchester City and England captain Steph Houghton MBE has made history after interacting with a fan 190 miles away via a live holographic call.
Ahead of her screamer in the 2-2 draw with Bristol City at the weekend, Houghton – at Vodafone’s Manchester office – appeared as a hologram on stage in front of an audience at the telecoms giant’s headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire.
During the call, enabled by 5G technology, she gave footballing tips to 11-year-old Manchester City and Lionesses fan Iris, who was in Berkshire.
She even performed some ‘keepy-uppies’, with the ball also captured as a hologram. She then gave Iris a high-five.
The exchange demonstrated the exciting possibilities that new technology can bring to sport, including remote coaching and training, as well as the opportunity to bring sports fans closer to their idols.
Houghton was using a Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset and said: “When I’m playing abroad with Manchester City and England, this technology will make it even easier to stay connected with everyone back home.
“To communicate in 3D, in real time and with no delay or interruption is an unbelievable experience.”
Vodafone says the technology will enable applications as diverse as remote robotic surgery and 4K gaming on the move.
The call follows the announcement in June this year that seven cities will become Vodafone 5G trial areas from next month.
It also announced that Cornwall and the Lake District will receive 5G during 2019 and there will be 1,000 5G sites by 2020.
Vodafone UK chief executive Nick Jeffery said: “Vodafone has a history of firsts in UK telecoms – we made the nation’s first mobile phone call, sent the first text and now we’ve conducted the UK’s first holographic call using 5G.
“We also lead the industry in Internet of Things technology, with the world’s largest dedicated global IoT network.
“The initiatives we’ve launched today are designed to ensure that everyone can benefit from the digital technologies transforming how we live and work. From our customers and employees, to university students, digital entrepreneurs and businesses, we want to help people across the UK get ready for a digital future.”
Houghton’s husband Stephen Darby, a former Liverpool and Bradford defender, was last week diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.
City manager Nick Cushing was full of praise for his captain following her late equaliser in the dramatic 2-2 weekend draw.
“Steph is Steph,” he told Man City’s website. “She’s the England captain and City captain because of her professionalism and commitment, and her desire and hunger to win. You could see that.”