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alugha – Breaking language barriers and reimagining the game of golf

May 6, 2020

In September 2019, Tata Communications and The European Tour launched The European Tour Innovation Hub which called on start-ups worldwide to develop new solutions to enrich the game of golf. The aim was to enable fans to interact with the game in new ways and to enhance how each European Tour event is broadcast and produced as part of the Tour’s commitment to ‘Driving Golf Further’.

Beating entries from over 70 technology start-ups from across the world, Germany based alugha GmbH won the inaugural edition of the Innovation Hub platform. alugha aims to break language barriers by creating multi-lingual video content to enable a more personalised engagement with the global golfing fan base of the European Tour.

No matter where I’m doing business, golf is omnipresent. So much so, that I decided to learn the sport. Unfortunately, right after I got my license to play, I suffered a car accident which prevented me from actively playing for many years. I am still very connected to the sport and it has had a big impact on my life. When my partner and I first heard about The European Tour Innovation Hub with Tata Communications and the opportunity to serve the golf community, it was clear to us that we needed to participate, as we already enthusiastically talked about how alugha could be the perfect solution for golf.

Apart from my personal experience and business relationship with the sport, this competition struck a chord because the implication of winning would directly impact how my dad enjoys the sport. He is also a passionate golf fan but suffers a common language limitation: speaking only one language. This excludes him from truly experiencing the events, highlights and excitement of golf.

Viability and accessibility 

Right from the beginning of the competition, we pictured alugha as the perfect and innovative solution to carry the excitement of golf around the world in the native languages of golf fans.

“Golf, with its passionate fan base, has the potential to shine as bright across the world as football does today.”

Just imagine the impact golf would have if it utilised a similar multilingual strategy like FC Barcelona, which publishes all content in Catalan, Spanish and English. Most importantly, the PGA European Tour has the perfect requirement for multilingual content, with 48 tournaments in 31 countries and 37 different player nationalities.

One of the issues that content owners such as the European Tour face is deciding which content will be made available in which language. Factors such as market size, cost of translation and distribution channel determine the viability of translation projects, and thus the level of accessibility. It simply doesn’t make sense economically to make every clip available in every language, so, unfortunately, a lot of die-hard fans around the world are left without watching a near perfect tee off the 18th in a language of their choice!

“Translation is a time-consuming process, and hence for a tour as big and broadly covered as the European Tour, it is impossible to translate and distribute all coverage promptly so that it still feels fresh and relevant in the mind of the end consumer.”

To sum up, the reasons that prevent the sports broadcasting industry from translating all of their coverage into every language under the sun are too expensive, too time-consuming and not economically viable.

Technology that makes multilingual possible

With alugha, we not only have the perfect solution to simplify the multilingualisation process but also the technology to make the language, enriched content globally available. The platform makes the multilingualisation process more efficient by reducing management overhead costs, allowing translation projects for niche markets and “minor” languages.

Let’s get into the details of what happens behind the scenes as we look at developing and improving the platform on a daily basis. First, imagine the amount of data it takes to get a video to your device. But you are not alone out there. There are thousands of people who want to watch the video at the same time. That’s obvious, right?

So, let’s take it up a notch. Imagine the complexity of delivering content across all possible devices, you may watch the content with an iPhone, while your friend does it with an Android. Back at home you can choose to keep watching on your tablet, smart TV or PlayStation- and this is just the front end. While Apple relies on HLS, others are more comfortable with mpegDASH, one browser requires MP3 as an audio source, others may use it with the opus (audio format). The technical challenges to deliver a video are never-ending but alugha makes sure that the content looks crisp and vibrant wherever you watch.

And all this didn’t even address the most engaging factor: reaching the user in their native language. Up to this point, we assumed that the user understands the language in the video. What if this isn’t the case? That’s when it gets complicated. Now for every language, a video has to be uploaded. So, for example, one video for Spanish, one for German, one for Russian, one for Arabic, etc. Ideally for all 31 languages of the European Tour. So that’s up to 31 videos on your servers and you can’t even be sure that the golf fans find the right video in the right language. That’s not easy at all!

“This is where alugha comes in with a solution. Our player supports multiple audio tracks in a single video, which saves storage, time, and resources.”

But most importantly, the viewer can watch a round directly in their language! In addition to the audio tracks, all content is also available as subtitles automatically extracted from transcripts providing people with hearing impairment access to the content as well.

But how do the languages actually get into the respective video? With the alugha dubbr toolkit. We’ve created an online environment where language tracks can be added, where audio tracks can be directly recorded for each language and where collaborators around the world can add their voice to a video.

The most important stakeholder: the golf fans 

We believe in the power of inclusion and driving immersive, personalised experiences for golf fans worldwide. That’s why we see great potential in not only including professional voice actors in the videos but also inviting golf enthusiasts to voice their passion. Highlights, event videos, on-site impressions can all be translated and dubbed by fans from the comfort of their homes or even as they are attending the event, immediately transmitting the excitement of the sport in their native language.

“Imagine if it would be possible to use the voice of a fan standing on the 18th green with the cheering crowds for your favourite golfer in a language that you speak. The possibilities are endless.”

The immersion workshop at London

The competition had a great atmosphere of growth and comradery between the finalists. Together with our fellow competitors eyecandylab and Sparx Technology, we experienced a great week full of industry insights, workshops and valuable input from industry leaders about our products. The interactions with the experts from the Venture capital community helped in getting deeper insights into the geography as well as potential product feature enhancements that might be required to get the perfect product-market fit.

During the diverse workshops, there was one aspect that particularly resonated with us, the three pillars of the European Tour of being innovative, inclusive, and global, which perfectly match alugha’s vision and the fundamental benefit of multilingual content. All in all, an enriching experience for a young company like ours looking to scale new heights, one language at a time.