Rugby fans can get shirts signed by Lions from 8,000 miles away thanks to hi-tech '5G autographs'

BRILLIANT new tech has allowed British and Irish Lions fans to get jerseys signed by the stars of the team – from 8,000 miles away.

The world-first ‘5G autograph signing’ saw Lions stars Maro Itoje, Chris Harris and Ken Owens signing shirts in the UK, in real time – from South Africa.


Using a precision robot and motion control technology, the Lions players wrote on a tablet with a stylus in South Africa.

Meanwhile, a giant robot arm stationed in London mirrored the players’ hand movements, allowing them to write directly on to the fan’s jersey as if they were there in the flesh, while chatting on a video call.

With supporters unable to travel and follow the team to South Africa, Vodafone, lead partner of the British and Irish Lions 2021 Tour of South Africa, arranged the signing to connect fans to the players competing overseas.

Rugby ‘super-fans’ Mark Probert, Mel Dee, Graham Bartlett and five-year-old Rocco Lock all had the opportunity to meet their Lions heroes via video link.

They shared words of encouragement, before being introduced to the robot powered by Vodafone’s 5G network which wrote a personal message and signature directly on to their Lions jersey, live in front of their eyes.

Jonny Lock, Rocco’s father, who was with him for the live signing with Ken Owens, said: “Rocco couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the robot moving in front of him – we were all taken aback.

“He’s loved rugby ever since he could walk, so having this experience with one of his Welsh heroes is more than he could ever have dreamed of.”

Max Taylor, consumer director at Vodafone, said: “For the fans that would have gone on this Lions tour to South Africa, getting a signed shirt would be a key part of their trip.


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“The pandemic has stopped that from happening – but we’ve used 5G to find a way to make it a reality.

“Throughout this tour, we’ve used technology and innovation to overcome barriers, and I’m delighted that we’ve given these fans a unique experience and something that they can treasure forever.

“A 5G-signed shirt is going to be a priceless souvenir from what is already proving to be a memorable tour.”

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