Play Ball 2.0: How Technology is Helping Make Sports Better

Published On December 3, 2013 | Electronics, Tech Business

It’s no secret that the integration of technology has greatly enhanced the game-watching experience of sports. There used to be a time when having something like instant replay in a game was revolutionary. Now, umpires and referees use instant replay to help them make the right call in just about every game.

Integrating technology into sports – from virtual strike zones and first-down lines in baseball and football to video review of controversial plays — makes the experience of watching a game on television better. For many sports fans, the technology that comes with watching a game on TV beats the experience of going to a stadium to watch a game live.

Here are some of the top ways technology is being integrated in sports.

Major League Baseball

Baseball is a sport where technology is integrated in so many ways. For watching the game on TV, the digital strike zone is an inventive way to track which pitches should be called balls and which should be called strikes. Before the digital strike zone was created, fans watching on TV were left to question close pitches based on their own view. Now, if an umpire calls a pitch a strike when the ball appears to be out of the digital strike zone, fans can hold umpires’ vision accountable.

The digital strike zone is also a way that scouts determine how to pitch to certain hitters. If a batter hits a lot of home runs on pitches that are high and inside, pitchers know not to throw it there when that batter comes up to bat.

In addition, instant replay of baseball plays will be expanded much more for the 2014 season. In recent years, instant replay has only been used for contested home run calls. Now, managers will be able to challenge certain calls such as close plays at bases or diving catches in the outfield which they feel are questionable. It will be similar to the NFL’s red-flag-throwing challenge system.

Also in 2014, on MLB.com, fans will be able to try and predict what will happen in each pitch, which is sure to be an interactive way to get into the game.

National Football League

If you have been to an NFL game before, you know that the yellow first down line you are used to seeing on TV is not really there. The lack of this technology makes it harder to tell in person if you’re a first down has been earned. However, there has been recent talk of a First Down Laser System that would project the first-down line across the field that can be seen both in person and on television.

For a better live fan experience, several NFL stadiums provide a radio headset for every seat. With this technology, the normal radio delay is eliminated, so fans in the stands can listen to play-by-play commentary as the plays unfold before them in real time.

There has also been talk of expanding cell coverage at NFL stadiums. If you ever try to check your fantasy lineup while at an NFL game, even on 4G LTE, your bandwidth is usually very slow, as well as the fact that your battery power dies very quickly.

National Basketball Association

Like baseball and football, instant replay helps professional basketball referees make the correct calls. NBA officials can review video to see, for example, if a shot left a player’s hand before the game or shot clock expired or if a player’s foot is behind the three-point line when shooting.

For the in-game experience, the NBA has installed a motion-tracking system that is used to record and measure the movements of the ball and all players on the court. This creates a big flow of data for all the stat geeks in their seats and for anyone following games on NBA.com.

— By Jennifer Thayer

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