Ben Kirman


Audiences of the future, spectatorship and esports (2019)

Weavr is a major collaborative project funded by the UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, Audience of the Future programme (£4m). It is led by industry partners ESL, and is looking at immersive technology for spectators of large sporting events. The consortium includes us at York, and amazing industry partners dock10, Cybula, Focal Point VR, REWIND and Future Visual.

WEAVR at ESL One Birmingham 2019

The focus of Weavr is on esports, and in particular Dota 2. Esports are particularly interesting as a fast-moving domain, where audiences engage in different ways (streaming, live at events, mobile, etc etc), and as they are digital, there are also a ton of ways to integrate directly with what is happening during the match by accessing rich live data.

There is a lot going on in this project, from virtual studio tech to 360 live video, VR and mobile tools. The work at York is led by Florian Block, and we have a great team of researchers working on developing and experimenting with different aspects of the project, doing a lot of work on personalisation, prediction and modelling, automatic caption/story generation, and spectator experience both in person at events and remotely.

It is such an exciting project because of this diversity, and although the focus is currently on esports, it is extremely clear how findings can apply to a much wider variety of sports events. We're really only scratching the surface in this project but it has been incredible to see how much interesting work has been possible in such a short time through the project.

WEAVR app screenshots showing stats from Dota 2 match

My role has been in working with researchers in study design and analysis, working on understanding user experience and qualitative studies of esports audiences. It has really been particularly fascinating to visit various esports events and speak to audiences, broadcasters/streamers, teams, and really get to grips with what esports mean to so many people.

There is a load more information on the Weavr website, plus the mobile companion is available on app stores, and following official ESL Dota 2 streams you will likely see Weavr tech used in broadcast and analysis.

Photos: K.Eyre | Weavr |


  • Justus Robertson, Athanasios V. Kokkinakis, Jonathan Hook, Ben Kirman, Florian Block, Marian F. Ursu, Sagarika Patra, Simon Demediuk, Anders Drachen, and Oluseyi Olarewaju (2021) Wait, But Why?: Assessing Behavior Explanation Strategies for Real-Time Strategy Games. In Proceedings of the 26th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI 2021). Online, 2021.
  • Simon Demediuk, Anders Drachen, Athanasios Kokkinakis, Moni Sagarika Patra, Justus Robertson, Ben Kirman, Alistair Coates, Alan Chitayat, Jonathan Hook, Isabelle Nolle, Oluseyi Olarewaju, Daniel Slawson, Marian Ursu, and Florian Block (2021). Performance Index: A New Way To Compare Players. In Proceedings of the 2021 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Virtual.
  • Oluseyi Olarewaju, Athanasios V. Kokkinakis, Simon Demediuk, Justus Roberstson, Isabelle Nölle, Sagarika Patra, Daniel Slawson, Alan P. Chitayat, Alistair Coates, Ben Kirman, Anders Drachen, Marian Ursu, Florian Block and Jonathan Hook (2020) Automatic Generation of Text for Match Recaps using Esport Caster Commentaries. In Proceedings of 6th International Conference on Natural Language Computing (NATL) 2020. Virtual.
  • Athanasios Kokkinakis, Simon Demediuk, Isabelle Nölle, Oluseyi Olarewaju, Sagarika Patra, Justus Robertson, Alan Chitayat, Alistair Coates, Daniel Slawson, Peter Hughes, Nicolas Hardie, Ben Kirman, Jonathan Hook, Anders Drachen, Marian Ursu and Florian Block (2020) DAX: Data-Driven Audience Experiences in Esports. In Proceedings of ACM International Conference on Interactive Media Experience (IMX) 2020. Virtual. (Best Paper Award)
  • Alan Chitayat, Athanasios Kokkinakis, Sagarika Patra, Simon Demediuk, Justus Robertson, Oluseyi Olarewaju, Marian Ursu, Ben Kirman, Jonathan Hook, Florian Block, and Anders Drachen (2020) WARDS: Modelling the Worth of Vision in MOBAs. In Intelligent Computing: Proceedings of the 2020 Computing Conference Volume 2 (pp 63-81). Springer.
  • Ben Kirman, Alan Chitayat, Alistair Coates, Simon Demediuk, Isabelle Nölle, Oluseyi Olarewaju, Sagarika Patra, Justus Robertson, Daniel Slawson, Athanasios Kokkinakis, Peter York, Nicolas Hardie, Peter Hughes, Florian Block, Anders Drachen, Jon Hook, and Marian Ursu. Weavr Companion App: Data-driven Storytelling for Live Esports Events. In Proceedings of SEEGames Workshop on Spectator Experience in Gaming and eSports. 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. (Virtual)