Changing the Game

Basketball – Players can now wear shoes (Adidas 1) that adjust themselves in real time to the right level of cushioning based on parameters measured by sensors in each shoe.

Football – Coaches can now communicate wirelessly with quarterbacks such that a play can be called in from the sidelines as the team huddles.

Creeping TechnoSport

These examples may seem a bit innocuous at first, but consider the football example. Before wireless-enabled helmets, a coach called in plays using hand signals or yelled voice signals.

Wireless just simplified the process. So, will it then be okay for other players to communicate with the coaching staff and each other while on the field since they already do that now by other means?

Add digital video. A coaching staff can now replay and analyze plays while the game progresses. Using image recognition software and multiple camera angles, an imaging system could generate the view of a play from the standpoint of a single player.

This could give the coaching staff an even more accurate understanding of how the opposing team is lining up and responding to movement on the field and relay that to players on the field. And, why stop with audio in the helmet. Why not a helmet visor that projects the view behind a player?

Performance is enhanced incrementally over time such that the way the game is played changes. Rule changes often follow, but now the use of digital technology is leading the way.

It’s inevitable that fantasy and reality sports will one day converge. Coaches will call plays that fans think will work based on their collective view of the game as experienced “virtually.” New sports will emerge from the shambles of traditional sports that insist on resisting the impact of technology. And maybe, just maybe, baseball umpires will be given the opportunity to reverse a bad call using instant replay.

John Webster is senior analyst and founder of Data Mobility Group . He has held the positions of director of Computing Research with Yankee Group’s Management Strategies Planning Service, and senior analyst with International Data Corp. He is also the co-author of “Inescapable Data – Harnessing the Power of Convergence” (Prentice Hall, 2005).