Sports and Technology

-Wrik Karmakar

What do you get when you add a dash of ‘tech magic’ into the soup of ‘sports’ you are brewing? Well, no worries, it didn’t spoil it at all. On the contrary you just made it better than ever. You are about to receive a host of applauses for the very delicious and interesting dish. Its there you have a little problem- how much of ‘tech’ to add exactly, because you know that every moment you have a new and enhanced version of that special ingredient, so when do you add it? No I don’t have the answer, but I will tell you, go with whatever you think best,that is, if you can manage(read ‘afford’) it.

 Enough of metaphors,face it. You wouldn’t like sports had it not had the wonders of technology integrated. Basically every sports uses technology. Soccer, basketball, cricket…. there’s tech in each one of them. Be it equipment, assessment of the game or other aspects,every one of them need a good bit of thinking and planning.

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 Let’s start with soccer.  Since the world cup is on  full swing, by the time you are reading this, the concept isn’t that far off. Wrong decisions are not uncommon in any game and soccer is no exception. Suppose the goalie actually saves a splendid shot equally well but somehow the balls caught near about the goal line. The referee isn’t of much help given that he was most likely away from the penalty box. The nearest linesman couldn’t observe it because the place was too crowded and TV replay is reluctant to make a decision anytime soon. And here’s the referee forced to decide, to continue the game… and he goes with the scoring side. Unfair but necessary for the progress of the game, or so the referee thinks. Apparently this triggered a few concerned minds and they sought to bring out significant changes so that deciding on the score is no more a major time-taking dilemma.  Thus we have the goal-line technology. There are currently three options that are being looked at for soccer goal line technology. In 2013, FIFA granted a licence to third goal-line technology manufacturer, German firm Cairos, joining the Hawk-Eye and GoalRef systems for the rights for use at the 2014 World Cup and the 2013 Confederations Cup, both to be held in Brazil. A promising prospect has been a “smartball” loaded with a sensor suspended inside, jointly developed by German companies Cairos Technologies and Adidas athletic clothing and shoe company. The companies’ technology uses a network of receivers around the field designed to track the ball’s precise position in real time – including exactly when it has fully passed the goal line. That information would be relayed in less than a second to a watch-like device worn by the referee. The Hawk Eye system uses three cameras focused on each goal-line, and each taking footage at 600 frames a second. Hawk-Eye is able to give a definitive decision on whether the ball has fully crossed the line, and relay this information in the form of an audible beep to the central referee within half a second. As the Premier League referees use headsets, the signal is easily sent to them. In other leagues, other methods such as through a watch can be used.

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 Olympics is another field where the maneuvers of technology is quite distinct. Since most of the events are track and field, they require a precise timekeeping to make sure that the standings and results are accurate.  Italian company Mondo, designer of Olympic tracks since the 1992 games, has unveiled a racing surface called the Mondotrack that should make races even faster. Unlike typical tracks, which feature one combined layer of rubber, Mondo’s surface features a distinct, traction/performance layer set atop a “backing” shock-absorption skin. This thinner traction layer improves speed by reducing the bite depth of racers’ spikes (a slowing action), while diamond patterns in the bottom shock-absorbing layer provide more support and bounce back than the square-shaped cells from days of yore — mimicking the spring of a trampoline in miniature scale. Apparently the layers are both vulcanized; we think that makes them more like Spock, which is cool. Nike is also an enthusiastic company in this field. During the 2012 olympics, hosted by UK in London, Nike brought out a range of innovative gear. Nike’s suit “TurboSpeed Pro” claimed to reduce time, while the shoe “Nike Zoom Victory Elite” was made specially for the 1500-meter sprint, which is a mid-distance event, and used vertical flywire cables along its exterior to create a flexible fit with minimal weight. Getty Images used fully remote-controlled cameras, equipped with 360 degree swiveling heads, to shoot from vantage points photographers can’t access — like rafters and other nifty niches. Getty experimented with 3D imagery during the games, with rigs equipped with two DSLRs for capturing a stereoscopic sense of depth.

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Coming to cricket, the DRS concept now used widely is a remarkable feat achieved by technology for it empowers fair decisions more than ever.  The new review system was officially launched by the International Cricket Council on 24 November 2009 during the first Test match between New Zealand and Pakistan at the University Oval in Dunedin. It was first used in One Day Internationals in January 2011, during England’s tour of Australia. That moment when everyone’s unsure whether the bat really touched? Allan Plaskett thought of Snickometer .The snickometer is used to detect edges from the bat using a microphone placed near the stumps. Commonly known as Snicko, the technology uses the difference between sound frequencies of the ball hitting different surfaces. For example, a woody sound has a different frequency than that of the ball hitting the glove. Even judging the LBW?

You’d get nowhere without Hawk eye.

So you see, behind these sophisticated advances are some very innovative minds who spend their time and efforts for you to sit back and enjoy the game. The last few decades have proved to exceptionally fruitful in this field and I think.we can confidently say that it is just the beginning of technology in sports.

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