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Mixed-reality Panther a hit at season opener

Mixed-reality Panther

CHARLOTTE — After months of work, the cat was out of the bag Sunday.

And on the field. And on top of both scoreboards. And bounding through the upper deck of Bank of America Stadium.

The Panthers unveiled their new mixed-reality mascot on the big screens before Sunday's win over the Jets, and it became a huge hit on social media.

The video has already gotten 8.9 million impressions on Twitter (and counting), capturing the attention of an internet that loves a good cat video.

In the stadium, fans could hear the rumbling and shaking of one of the statues outside the stadium coming to life, before the huge black cat pounced into the stadium, to the top of one video board, tearing a Jets flag off a pole, before heading to the field, leaping to a goalpost and eventually to the other scoreboard and out.

Executive producer of game presentation Mike Bonner said the graphic has been in the works since July, and took seven or eight weeks to develop before it was ready to test. As you might imagine, the technology is incredibly complex. But the middle-aged Bonner compared it in essence to a View-Master toy from the '60s and '70s, which used cardboard reels to present stereoscopic images.

There was nothing low-tech about Sunday's video, however, and the eye-catching cat quickly made the rounds.

The project included The Famous Group, which created a similar bird presentation for a Ravens game late in 2019. Panthers chief revenue officer Jake Burns said the plan is for the Panther to appear at each home game this year, and to evaluate the technology for future uses as well.

"The organization is committed to bringing new and innovative experiences to our fans on game day," Burns said. "We are extremely excited to be one of the first teams to bring this incredibly unique experience to our fans for the entire season. So far, the response has been excellent."

"We felt strongly that the piece would be received well, but the reaction was amazing and even better than we hoped."

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