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Archive for the ‘In-Game Enhancements’ Category

AimPoint Technologies’ Mobile Application

Last week I briefly mentioned a company, AimPoint Technologies, and its advancements in the golf broadcast sector of the sports industry. Specifically its Emmy Award winning predictive put technology. However, as I dug deeper into AimPoint’s website I discovered a great mobile application that the company has developed exclusively for use on the iPhone. AimPoint’s mobile application has three distinct uses to help golfers, Electronic AimCharts, Video Tips, and Instructor Listings.

Electronic AimCharts:

“The AimPoint app is an electronic version of the AimChart, showing expected break amounts in both English and Metric values as well as breaks on all three primary green shapes. It allows you to use green speeds of 8 thru 14, and grades of 0.5% to 4.0%.” (source) This means that both professional and amateur golfers can have a better understanding of how the ball will break depending upon the contours of the specific green that they are putting on.

Electronic AimCharts screenshot

For professional golfers, this can serve as a valuable tool for practicing on courses before a tournament is held in that location. Pro golfers can utilize this app while practicing to understand how and where the ball will break, as well as how fast the ball moves on the putting surface. By taking advantage of this technology during practice rounds, professional golfers can obtain an advantage heading into tournaments as they will understand the nuances of each putting green and can obtain a mastery of the course. An advantage that would certainly be well worth it considering the large monetary sums players can win. For example, the winner of the 2011 Masters Tournament is slated to earn $1,440,000, while second place earns $864,000 and the earnings continue to wind down quickly with the 48th place finisher (the final “in the money” player) earns $21,920. (source) For the more casual and amateur golfers, this technology can certainly help improve people’s short game and make the game more enjoyable. Moreover,  it enables people to use the same technology that professional can use at the affordable onetime price of $29.99.

Video Tips and Instructor Listings:

These two sections are focused on amateur and casual golfers as opposed to professionals.

Video Tips screen shot

Like the name say, the Video Tips portion of the application allows users to watch short videos featuring advice from AimPoint’s “senior golf instructors as well as some of golf’s greatest short game instructors“. The Instructor Listings section of the application allows people to find the closest AimPoint instructors to help them master the use of AimPoints technologies and techniques in a hands-on manner. It also gives people the options of getting a list of all instructors by state.

Instructor Listing screen shot

This gives people to see where each AimPoint instructor in the state is located and allows a greater variety of choice between instructors whose hands-on instruction is critical to becoming an expert green reader.

While only one portion of this application is truly aimed at professional golfers, it is equally valuable for amateur and casual golfers as well as for caddies. This is just another demonstration of how AimPoint Technologies continues to lead the way in developing innovative technology for the game of golf, its players, and broadcasters.

FoxTrax Puck Tracking Failure

April 24, 2011 1 comment

So far this blog has discussed how ICT related advances have changed the sports industry and have had positive effects. Well not all advancements are successful. Case in point, the FoxTrax puck tracking system (also known as the glow or glowing puck) developed for the NHL. The 1995 NHL season marked the first year Fox Sports began airing NHL games. The NHL at that time, and still to this day, lagged behind the other major American sports when it comes to television contracts and ratings. Hockey games on TV have always had trouble catching on with the casual fans and viewers. The single biggest complaint was that it was difficult to see and follow the puck during the live game action. To devoted hockey fans this complaint was a joke as the puck is black and it is on white ice. Think about it for a second, it does not seem like it should be that difficult to see and follow the puck during a game. However, Fox Sports felt the need to address this common complaint and in an effort to boost television ratings and thus, increase revenues from advertisers, Fox Sports brought about the FoxTrax puck tracking system. This technology made it so that TV viewers would

The red tail seen on a shot

see a blue glow around the puck making it easier for people to see and follow during a game. Moreover, when the puck was shot at a speed of over 70 mph, a red tail would appear showing the puck’s path.

In order to create this technology, a standard hockey puck was cut in half and infrared sensors were placed inside of it (see the end of this post for photos), which then sent signals to sensors placed around the arena. The data would then be transmitted to the FoxTrax truck outside where, using computers, the information was transformed into the blow glow and the red tail. Seeing as this was my feeble attempt at explaining how this works, here is a short video showing how this technology was created.

This technology was first implemented at the 1996 NHL All-Star game and proved to be popular amongst the casual fans, and there was even a slight boost in the TV ratings. However, devoted hockey fans and purists hated the invention. They saw it as making the game comical and thought it looked like a video game. These fans openly expressed their despise for the glowing puck, eventually causing the NHL to abandon the technology after game 1 of the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals. (source) Fox Sports spent a tremendous amount of time and money developing this system, yet due to the backlash from hockey’s serious fans, had to abandon this innovation. People take their sports very seriously, and any new creations, adaptations, or changes can be met with great disdain and fail due to the backlash from the die-hard fans. Companies must be careful when developing new technologies that are supposed to improve the game for fans. The FoxTrax puck tracking system is a perfect example of how some ICT innovations, no matter how well-intentioned and thought out, can fail.

As a casual hockey fan whose viewing is predominantly done during the playoffs, I will admit that it can be difficult at times to follow the puck when it is along the boards or moving quickly between a sea of hockey players. Yet I still think that the FoxTrax system was unnecessary. Below are two videos, one showing highlights from a regular hockey game without the FoxTrax system, and one showing highlights with the FoxTrax system in place. I will let you decide how difficult it was to see the puck and if you think implementing the FoxTrax puck tracking system was worth it or not.

Here is the video with no FoxTrax system:

Here is the video showing the highlights from the 1996 NHL All-Star game where you can see the FoxTrax technology at work:

Here are a few photos of what the FoxTrax pucks look like when dissected:

Sportvision: Broadcast and In-Game Viewing Enhancements

April 24, 2011 1 comment

Last week I discussed EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook and the how that technology has changed the way sports broadcasters and can analyze games and provide greater insights to fans. That technology inspired me to look into some of my other favorite ICT advancements that have brought about tremendous changes to the way fans get to enjoy watching games and I found a vast majority of these innovations led me back to the same company, Sportvision.

The Sportvision company logo

Sportvision is the leader in this industry and has won 8 Emmy Awards for its technological achievements and in 2002 was credited by the Sports Business Journal with inventing of half of all the technological advancements in sports television. (source) In fact, in 2010 Sportvision was even voted the 34th most innovative company in the world by Fast Company. Sportvision’s first major breakthrough came with its Virtual Yellow 1st and Ten™ graphics system, the computer generated yellow line that appears on the football field and “allows viewers to see the required distance the offense needs to earn a first down for each play”. (source) The yellow line looks like it is actually on the field and has been so popular amongst fans that is has become a mainstay in television broadcasts of football games

The yellow line as seen during a game

and has even won numerous Emmy’s for technical achievement. While it is easy to recognize what yard line a team has to reach if it is on one of the actual white yard lines on the field (which are marked every ten yards), it is more difficult to know exactly where a team must reach it is anywhere else. The yellow first down marker has taken the uncertainty out of it for fans watching games on TV, and they can simply look at the TV and know the spot that must be reached. The technology used to create the yellow 1st down marker is quite interesting but a bit difficult to explain, so here are two videos that do a great job of explaining how this breakthrough is made possible. 

Building  off of the success of the Virtual Yellow 1st and 10 graphics system, Sportvision has become a leader in this industry. The company has focused on developments for both broadcasting and the viewing pleasure of fans. Sportvision has made numerous advancements in other sports as well including baseball, soccer, tennis,  horse racing and the Olympics. They are responsible for

PITCHf/x and K-Zone technology in action

creating the”PITCHf/x system that illustrates the flight of the ball, and the Emmy-Award winning K-Zone system that makes the strike zone seem tangible”. (source) Sportvision’s website contains an incredible video explaining the technology and showing the PITCHf/x system in action, in addition to links to videos for the K-Zone system and other creations. In fact, if one takes the time to look around the Sportvision’s website you may be surprised by the vast number of technological inventions the company has come up with that is seen every day in sports.

Predictive put technology as seen TV

Making sporting events easier to follow and watch on TV leads to more people watching the games being broadcast, and the boost in ratings obviously leads to more money from advertisers as well as more lucrative television contracts for professional and collegiate sports. The integration of Sportvision’s technologies into sports broadcasts have been so successful that it has spurred the growth of an industry related to in-game viewing enhancements for fans. Other companies have take notice of Sportvision’s success and entered the field such as AimPoint and its advances in the golf industry. AimPoint created the Emmy Award winning predictive put technology, which is utilized by the golf channel and approved PGA. This technology creates “a live graphical insertion of optimal putt overlays into golf broadcasts” and “provides an unparalleled opportunity for the viewer to understand green-reading, putting difficulty, and approach shot strategies” (source). Check out AimPoint’s website for some really interesting videos showing this technology in action.

Sportvision and other companies’ successful ICT innovations for the progression of in-game viewing during sports broadcasts have made watching sports more enjoyable and have made the intricacies involved easier to understand and visualize. As more companies continue to enter the field, I eagerly await to see what new technological creations will come about and how they will affect the way in which we watch sports.