SAN FRANCISCO -- We are passionate about sports. Just check the TV ratings. That passion has merged with our fascination with technology to produce a growing list of applications that make sports safer and more fun to watch.
Technology has become an integral part of sports, both for participants and viewers. Athletes are using technology to play more smartly or safely and viewers are getting an increasingly immersive experience, both at the stadium and in the home.
This often creates a conundrum for sports leagues: How much should they embrace technology? Instant replay, for example, is an accepted part of American football, while baseball holds it at arm's length.
Greater proliferation, adoption
One of the earliest uses of technology was in horse racing, where thoroughbreds often crossed the finish line simultaneously, and were moving so fast the human eye often couldn't distinguish winner from runner-up.
Assuming gambling had as much as influence on technology adoption as it has other sports, stop-motion cameras were rolled out at race tracks around the world.
What follows are 10 amazing technologies that sports and athletes have adopted.
First stop: camera technology triggered as horses (and runners) crossed the finish line to determine who won a close race. The technology and technique of "strip" photography dates to the mid-19th century, was first used in the 1912 Olympics and made its way into horse racing in the 1930s.
Keeping in the theme of the discussion, I was recommending ways that tecnology could be used to speed up the game. If they want to keep the game "more human" and yet find a way to speed it up, I'm in. In the end I just want a more enjoyable viewing experience. Unfortunatley the networks are trending the other way.
I think technology can add a lot to the viewing of sports, but can there also be too much of a good thing? It seems like the last football game I saw was so filled with image gimickry, replays, nth angle shots, and graphics shooting all around the screen that it was actually slightly annoying. It left you with the feeling that you watched a whole movie in one play. Give me back my game!
It always amazed me as a kid when my older brother and his friends would be watching a football game and their ability to catch off-sides and other violations when I had difficutly even following the flow of the ball through the a given play. Not having the technology forces you to sharpen your skills of observation. And having refs instead of a laserbeam determine an offsides violation keeps the game more human, and I kind of like that. In the end, it is all about humans, and it is a human contest. Sure, fans may argue over a call until the next season begins, but that is part of the fun as well. ;)
In my opinion Football could take a few more technological steps to solve a major problem for viewers: stopage. I've grown soooo tired of watching those Three Hour Men's Products Infomercials...uh, I mean "games", that I don't really watch them anymore. (Notice to advertisers) I just pop in and out to check scores and scan for the rare good play.
One easy step would be first down lasers. My God, how difficult should it be to determine a friggin' first down? A ref spots the ball, everybody gets out of the way, laser disrupted - FIRST DOWN! Laser detected - FORTH DOWN! NEXT PLAY. Other technologies could be used for this function as well.
Next would be booth officials, instead of field officials, doing instant replay. Do we really need to wait that agonizing five minutes for the field officials to saunter over to the replay booth - after announcing that they will do so, do their business behind closed curtain and then saunter back out to tell us what they just did? (I often wonder if they aren't having a little coffee break in there.) Anyway, Tennis uses chair judges, why not Football?
Those are just a few ideas. There are many more. All are needed to make the viewing experience enjoyable again.
It certainly is. Fortunately*, the football (sorry, soccer) authorities have been embarrassed into investigating goal-line technology following too many key goals that were not awarded by officials (eg England** vs Germany in the 2010 World Cup).
*I must declare an interest - I work for Sony, who took over Hawkeye last year. These are my views, not Sony's etc etc
**I must decalre an interest - I'm English
Looking at this, it's really hard to imagine sports today WITHOUT all of this technology.
There is an interesting discussion to be had (it's already had all of the time) about why some of this technology is used for telecasting games, but is not incorporated into the games themselves. Big examples are the first down line in NFL games (doesn't it HAVE to be more accurate than the current referee eyeball approach) and the use of the pitch zone pitch locator for calling balls and strikes in baseball. I'm not saying I'm for it, but it's certainly a much debated topic.
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