The world of sports technology is a fascinating one that is rapidly changing. Since the 1980s, sports technology has become a larger and larger part of the game of sports. From challenge systems to pitch trackers, the world of sports has significantly been altered due to these budding technologies. Listed below are ten pieces of sports technology that have fundamentally changed the world of sports to the greatest degree.
10. Phantom Cam
Regardless of the speed of play in any sport, it’s always important to have the ability to slow down the action when necessary. The “Phantom Cam”, manufactured by Vision Research, is a new piece of technology that is just beginning to find a home in the wide world of sports. This particular camera has the astounding ability to slow down the action recorded on the camera. This is made possible through the number of frames per second the camera can capture, which are approximately 5,000. Considering a standard slow-motion camera only captures 380 frames per second, the Phantom Camera is leaps and bounds ahead of its competition. With this technology, challenges in baseball are made possible by slowing down time and letting the officials upstairs study if the runner’s foot hit the bag before or after the ball arrived. It’s also used in this same manner in football, as well as to showcase the brutal effects tackles have on the football player’s body.
9. The Cyclops
This one may have you completely befuddled. That’s okay; I’m here to help with that. Tennis fans will know the “Cyclops” as that loud beeping sound you hear when a tennis player hits the ball into the net. Basically, Cyclops is a small box located on the side of the court. It projects five to six horizontal light beams across the court. When the ball breaks one of the lines, the “beep” noise is heard. It’s a great piece of technology when it comes to the game of tennis. As players are serving faster and faster, it can be hard to determine if the ball clipped the net when being served. With Cyclops in place, the umpires can rest easy.
8. 1st and 10 Graphics System
What many consider to be a staple of the American and Canadian football tradition, the 1st and 10 graphics system revolutionized the way an audience watches these sports. While it may have been somewhat confusing to try and find the first down marker when watching a football game, this graphics system made your life a whole lot easier. The system is able to project images and graphics onto a real-time feed. This is the first system to use the “yellow line” to mark the first down marker. Additionally, many lines and colors are now used to distinguish the first down marker, the line of scrimmage, and even the red zone (inside the opponent’s 20-yard line).
7. Sports Ticker
As technology evolves, information becomes easier and easier to access. With this ease of access, comes the sports ticker. Occasionally used for news reports in the northern part of the United States in the 1980s, the ticker was adopted into the sports world during this same decade. ESPN featured a ticker called the “:28/:58 update”, which would deliver news in scrolling fashion at the bottom and top of the hour. In the 1990s, the sports ticker became a news source that was running continuously. ESPN2 debuted this continuous 24-hour ticker and named it the “BottomLine”. Ever since then, the entire family of ESPN networks has adopted the BottomLine and employ this 24-hour cycle. As consumers, we don’t have to wait for a sports show to give us our news. Instead, we just have to wait and look down below.
6. Football Helmet Earpieces
Obtaining a direct line of communication with the quarterback is common in these days of advanced technology. When the game of football was just beginning, the coach would give the quarterback the play, he would run out, and he would run it. Repeat about 70 times and you can see how that gets tiresome. Fast-forward to 1994, and witness a saving grace for coaches and players. The earpiece the quarterback uses (and some other players) has made life so much easier on them. They can communicate directly with the coach and not have to waste time on processing hand signals the coaches are giving him (though this is still a common practice in football). The players who are wearing headsets are designated on the field by a green dot on the back of their helmet.
This piece of technology has become crucial and is used in various sports, including cricket, tennis, and association football. Since many of the sports Hawk-Eye is used for include a small object travelling at high speeds (tennis and cricket), the technology has altered the games of both sports. In tennis, the Hawk-Eye camera is used in the challenge system. Basically, Hawk-Eye is a group of cameras that are positioned over the court. They are placed in various locations and track the ball’s trajectory. How is this done? Each camera sends its own view of the ball, and the computer takes all angles of the ball and triangulates the ball’s precise movements. Hence, it is great for use in the replay system since it tracks the ball’s landing area (it’s accurate to .19 in.). With Hawk-Eye always looming overhead on TV courts in tennis, players know they have another set of eyes officiating the match.
4. Pitch Tracker
The pitch tracker is unique in that many versions of this technology exist and are used by everyone from professional teams to television networks. However, the idea is still the same with all of them. Pitch tracker, as it is generally called, tracks the pitches thrown and virtually displays them on the screen. This is one piece of technology that has rapidly evolved over the years. It began by simply tracking where the pitches landed. Then, the technicians added in the “hot and cold zones” on the tracking display (it displayed the hitter’s hot and cold zones). When it began to get used, it was used sparingly. Today, many telecasts of professional baseball games leave the pitch tracker up for full innings at a time. Not only has this piece of sports technology helped immerse the viewer in the watching experience, it has also greatly affected the players themselves. Hitting coaches show their hitters the display and work on it in the batting cages. Pitchers study it and try to learn about patterns and locations of pitches they make. It has seeped into both the consumer side of sports as well as the professional side.
Computer simulations drive many companies in their quest for research and development. Simulations help track possible scenarios, and what direction the market could go. In sports, simulations play a similar role. They help determine what could happen when players are put in specific situations. Sports shows run simulations (sometimes via actual video games) to see who might win a contest. Since simulations are supposed to take many statistics into account, their accuracy is pretty solid (though not 100%. No one can predict the unpredictable). These computer programs have ushered in a new way to look at sports and statistics.
2. Challenge System
Many sports have adopted, in some form or another, a challenge system. Before technology arrived on the sports scene, all calls were performed by humans. While this is still the case, the concept of challenging these human-made calls has escalated in popularity and use in the past 10 years. For those uninitiated in sports, the challenge system is set up so that players can challenge a call made on the field of play. Football was one of the first major sports to implement a challenge system, challenging the spot of the ball on the field. Nowadays, it has expanded to a variety of sports, even baseball.
1. Instant Replay
For the challenge system (mentioned above) to be implemented, there has to be video evidence to analyze. This is where instant replay comes into play. Instant replay has affected all areas of sports. In its earliest implementation, it was strictly used to show the television viewer what they may have just missed. As technology advanced, sports teams began to review replays to see what was working and not working (in terms of player action, mechanics, etc.) Instant replay is now essential in all aspects of the sports world. It’s at the core of all sports technology. It’s what spurred the challenge system. It’s the technology that brought about the Phantom Cam for sports. Replays help pitchers see what they’re doing wrong in their pitching motion; football coordinators analyze offensive and defensive schemes, etc. Instant replay is the number one game changer in sports technology.