The New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys are almost a month into this new NFL season and by most accounts, have exceeded expectations. Both have a 2-1 record after just three games and both already have a big win under their belts. The Saints knocked off last year's MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in week one by a 38-3 count. Meanwhile, the Cowboys, led by Haughton native Dak Prescott, sent a message to the other team in the NFL East by hammering division rival Philadelphia 41-21 in their most recent contest.

But no matter this season's on-the-field glory, both are - for now, at least - big losers in the theatrics department. For right now, that crown goes to the Carolina Panthers and their (almost) one-of-a-kind "mixed reality" pre-game presentation.

So, what's the big deal?

Well, imagine a three-story-tall black panther leaping into the stadium, then, in one jump, standing on the top tier of the arena. A couple of era-deafening roars later it bounds down to the stadium floor, rears up defiantly, then springs from sight.

That's mixed reality.

But how do they do it? Well, according to Microsoft, "mixed reality is a blend of physical and digital worlds, unlocking natural and intuitive 3D human, computer, and environment interactions. This new reality is based on advancements in computer vision, graphical processing, display technologies, input systems, and cloud computing."

Huh?

Well, here's a little simpler explanation from The Verge:

"What’s going on is that an animation of the virtual panther is being rendered within a live feed of the real world. That means camera operators have to track and follow the animations of the panther in real time as it moves around the stadium, like camera operators would with an actual living animal. To give the panther virtual objects to climb on and interact with, the stadium is also modeled virtually but is invisible."

For now, fans inside the stadium can't see the mixed reality hologram, but had to view it on the big-screens. But the videos creator, Unreal Engine, says it's working on bringing the panther to life - sort of.

Meanwhile, Saints and Cowboys, get to work! There's no reason a 60-foot-high saint couldn't lift to the heavens after every score, or a Big Tex size cowpoke couldn't lower himself into Jerry's stadium on via lasso.

After all, it's the 21st century. And we said adios to reality a long time ago.

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