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Stats on your shirt!

December 6, 2006

University of Sydney shows off wearable stats on a basketball jersey

I’m such a television sports geek. I love when there’s a new gadget or innovation that makes watching sports better.

New Scientist Tech reports on the next great one from a team at the University of Sydneywearable game statistics.

Here’s more from the article:

Basketball vests (singlets) with electroluminescent displays that show a player’s score, and number of fouls, are being trialled in Australia.

The vests can also display more general information, like the amount of time left in a game. This gives players greater confidence in their team’s tactics, say the researchers involved.  

View of the controls for the jerseyThe simple, coloured display panels are attached to each vest and connected to a small computer, about the size of an iPod, strapped to each player’s body. These computers communicate wirelessly with a central control system, installed at the side of the court, which keeps track of all relevant statistics as the game goes on.

“Team sports uniforms already communicate information visually,” like a player’s name, says Mitchell Page, who developed the system at the University of Sydney. “We wanted to augment the existing team sports uniform model to communicate more relevant information, such as a player’s stats and performance.”

Page developed TeamAwear (for “team sports awareness wearable display”) with colleague Andrew Vande Moere. They have tested it during 2-on-2 basketball games with referees, coaches and a small crowd all present.

Luminescent bars running up the side of a vest indicate the points scored by each player, while lines on their shoulders show the number of fouls against them. Panels on each player’s chest indicate when the game time or shot clock is running low, and panels on their back show which team is winning.

“Results were extremely positive,” Page told New Scientist. “We found that spectators benefited the most – understanding and even enjoying the game a whole lot more than usual.”

He adds that players also enjoyed wearing the displays, using them to judge when to play aggressively or more conservatively. “They used the time limit displays to gauge when to pick up the pace of the game,” Page says.

The developers of this system say that they chose basketball because the contact in the sport wasn’t as violent as, say, hockey, football or rugby. But that contact will need to be experienced to see how this tech reacts and holds up.

And what happens when these clothes need a wash cycle?

Motivated by this new introduction, here’s my list of the top quirky innovations in sports TV technology (most of these pioneered by Sportvision): FoxTrax puck and guts

  • Remember the FoxTrax flashing/comet-tail hockey puck that Fox uses on their telecasts? Loved it, especially because it showed rebound directions and calculated speed of the puck with the digitally-enhanced comet tail. Even though 7 of 10 viewers liked the system, a lot of hockey purist critics said it was distracting.
  • Fox is now using computers to track the break curve, accuracy and speed of baseball pitches with FoxTRAK (link here). And it’s being used in soccer, to measure curve on free kicks.
  • The short-lived XFL football league started using the “skycam” above American football fields, which was similar to the view provided by Madden football video games. It’s now used on every NFL-showing network, and in many NBA and NHL games.
  • Of course, the ultimate innovation has been football’s “1st-and-10” first-down line, that is digitally added to American football telecasts. This has been translated to soccer, showing the offsides mark on disputed replays.

Basketball stats shown live on players’ shirts | New Scientist Tech

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