Sports like football, basketball, and baseball are time-honored traditions. Their formats have largely remained the same over the generations. For example, baseball has always been about getting hits and home runs to advance teammates to home plate.
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The core ideas around these beautiful games will last a long time. However, sports technology has helped athletes, fans and officials keep the games modern. Here are six shifts in sports technology that are improving sports as you know them.
1. Assistant video referee
Officiating is often a hot topic at sporting events. Fans get angry when they think the officials miss a call that significantly affects the outcome of the game. Baseball ignored instant replays until 2008 and allowed umpires to make calls exclusively on the field. It took FIFA until the 2018 World Cup to accept instant replay as a necessity in today’s sporting world.
FIFA uses video assistant referees (VAR) to review matches. After a successful debut in 2018, FIFA brought back VAR for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It took the officials just three minutes to disallow Michael Estrada’s goal via VAR in the opener between Qatar and Ecuador. VAR uses semi-automatic technology to determine whether a player has scored a goal offside. Using the naked eye to determine a call is difficult, so technology is here to help.
2. Smart stadiums
Sporting events are as much about the fans as they are about the players and coaches involved. Many people spend their hard-earned money and travel thousands of miles to see their favorite athletes live. Venues around the world have aimed to improve the fan experience by building smart stadiums. These arenas include advanced technology that allows fans to improve their security and connect to high-speed Internet.
In the US, look at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The home of the Falcons has 1,800 wireless access points and 2,000 televisions located around the stadium, so fans can see the game while they line up in the concession stands.
Internationally, NACK5 Stadium in Saitama City, Japan is another example of an enhanced fan experience. Here, fans can order food and drinks and have staff deliver them to their seat. The stadium also allows fans to see the game through the eyes of the goalkeeper with virtual reality headsets.
3. Artificial grass
In the past few years, more emphasis has been placed on player safety. Leagues like the NFL have found ways to reduce injuries through artificial intelligence. However, simple changes have proven to be effective in keeping players safe. One example is the use of artificial grass instead of natural grass on the field. The NFL’s 32 teams play in 30 stadiums, and 14 have switched to artificial turf so far.
Artificial grass benefits athletes because it is more durable than natural grass. In fact, it can last 10 years if you maintain it properly. Fall Sundays see a lot of traffic on soccer fields, so it’s important to have healthy turf for the athletes. The NFL season extends into December and January, when winter weather can significantly affect playing conditions. Artificial turf is more resistant to slipping, so the fields in Buffalo, New York and Seattle are more favorable for players.
The beauty of sports is how accessible they are. you can go outside and throw a football or shoot a basketball with your friends. Although, race car drivers don’t have that luxury. Your backyard might not be the best place for the upcoming 107th Indianapolis 500 or next year’s Daytona 500. However, technology has evolved to bring practice courses to your computer screen.
For the past few years, NASCAR drivers have been using simulators to practice when they are away from the speedways. These systems are very similar to the actual driving experience on the track. In the past, simulators were designed for newcomers and online gaming enthusiasts like William Byron and Anthony Alfredo to gain experience. However, most current NASCAR drivers spend 10 hours a week on the simulator preparing for the next race.
Many sports require decades of training and preparation to reach the next level. Technology has bridged the gap between athletes and fans, allowing regular people to get involved in the games. Since the pandemic, eSports has grown significantly. Experts predict that eSports revenue will double between 2020 and 2025 due to their popularity.
Leagues like NASCAR and the NBA have gotten involved in eSports iterations of their organizations. In 2018, the NBA and Take-Two Interactive designed the NBA 2k league, which involved more than 20 teams with professional players hired to compete for the championship. In 2011, NASCAR started the Coca-Cola iRacing series, where current teams like Roush Fenway Racing and 23XI Racing started eSports teams to compete on a virtual track.
6. Action audio
Sports are a great pastime for many, whether playing or watching on TV. Involving as many people as possible is a measure of inclusiveness. People with disabilities may have difficulty seeing or hearing the games they love. Now there is technology to help with their desires.
In 2021, Australian researchers developed Action Audio, an audio stream that helps visually impaired people follow live tennis matches. Tennis Australia has designed the system to help listeners decide what is going on with the different voices. Audio cues indicate where the ball landed and how the tennis player hit the ball. If the tennis ball hits close to the baseline, you will hear a ping with several strokes.
Improving the world’s favorite games
The sport has become a spectacle around the world, whether it’s the Olympics, the Indianapolis 500, the World Cup, or other events. Going to these games is an unforgettable experience, thanks in part to the evolution of sports technology.
Many sports have maintained a similar structure for a century or more. However, the science involved in practice or tenure has come a long way. Your favorite sports just got safer and more accessible for fans, athletes and more.
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