Sports Technologies 101
Sports are advancing with the times and incorporating new technology to collect player data, help with training, and make the game safer for all players. Here are just some of the technologies that are having an impact, some already well-incorporated into the game, others about to change it for the better.
The most talked about athletic tech is definitely the wearable, a small gadget that you can wear, usually on your wrist, that collects data like heart rate and steps taken, then connects wirelessly to a smartphone so you can view the data. Wearables like the Fitbit helped to popularize the devices with athletes.
The new trend in wearables is better incorporating the tech into an athlete’s fashion choices, so they don’t have to feel like they’re wearing something extra. SMS Audio created the BioSport Headphones to measure heart rate while simultaneously playing music with good sound quality and looking fashionable. Athletes can wear this tech during training and feel like they’re just wearing their normal earbuds.
A similar class of wearables integrated directly into clothing that’s on the rise is smart fabrics. Examples of smart fabrics include everything from socks that measure running metrics to shirts that measure heart rate and skin temperature. Technologies that are still in development, like Marucci Sports’ smart fabric helmet, could wind up saving lives of football players potentially suffering from concussions.
Image via Flickr by basheertome
Wearable technology has many uses for safety in sports. Reebok’s Checklight works a lot like the Marucci Sports helmet, by measuring the number and severity of impacts taken in a football game. It doesn’t have the potential to diagnose concussions, but it’s a good indicator of potential damage.
Companies like Unequal are offering new technology for uniforms that helps athletes armor up with Kevlar padding. Technologies like Skulpt Aim, while not wearable, are able to precisely measure muscle quality and fatigue, which lets a sport manager or coach know when to take an athlete out of the game.
Data Collection/Motion Tracking
One field of technology that’s already being widely implemented in sports games and training is data collection, which goes hand in hand with motion tracking. The NBA uses the SportVU system of motion tracking cameras to measure data in real-time during a game. Sports with larger playing fields like soccer and football can’t use SportVU, so they rely on wearable trackers like Catapult. There are even motion trackers made to measure a baseball bat’s motion and swing metrics developed by Performance Sports Group.
Another way athletes use motion tracking is in training. Many sports have created training programs using Microsoft’s Kinect device for Xbox, which follows a player’s motion with a camera. Eventually, athletic trainers hope to incorporate virtual reality gameplay into training programs.
Players are able to stay in great shape more easily as a result of these technologies. Coaches can efficiently check their players’ health and stats. Even referees can use motion tracking playback to make calls on plays. Technology is making the game safer and better for everyone.