The world of professional sport has ushered in some much-needed technologies that have improved the efficiency and decision-making of live games at the most crucial of points. The inclusion of video assistant referees (VAR) in football has given referees multiple pairs of eyes to assess every on-field move.
Furthermore, the introduction of VAR technology appears to have upped the decision-making accuracy of referees. A study by Spitz in 2021 found that referees’ accuracy had improved from 92.10% correct decisions to 98.30% correct decisions. In a sport that’s become more of a business than a pastime, this is a sizeable enhancement and greatly welcomed by teams who rely so heavily on competition prize money.
Meanwhile Hawk-Eye’s computer vision technology has made it possible to track the trajectory of a moving ball, outlining its most probable path. All of which has transformed decision-making in cricket and tennis. In the former sport, other audio and visual technologies have also been used to pinpoint unseen edges for caught behind decisions, as well as possible LBWs.
Hawk-Eye technology was founded in the UK by a man named Paul Hawkins. Said to provide an accurate reading to within 3.6 millimetres, this was enough for the sport of cricket to lean heavily on Hawk-Eye – and it still does to this very day. It’s not just the governing bodies of cricket and tennis that have embraced the prowess of Hawk-Eye. In 2013, the English Premier League – and eventually the EFL – opted to use Hawk-Eye as a form of goal-line technology. This has made it quicker and easier for match officials to determine if the ball has fully crossed the goal-line.
Neither sport nor technology stands still. That’s why fans and sporting analysts alike are already seeking the next iteration of technologies and gadgets that will be used to take professional sport to even greater heights.
World-leading futurologist, Dr Ian Pearson, has had his say on some of the potential additions likely to be in the pipeline for sports technology in the short and medium term.
One of the biggest sports tech innovations looks likely to occur in elite-level soccer, where Dr Pearson believes players will soon be wearing augmented reality (AR) glasses on the training field. Pearson says these glasses will help players to learn faster and make real-time adaptations to their movements and decision-making.
It’s not just elite-level soccer where ‘smart’ glasses could have a transformative impact. American Football is another sport that relies heavily on strategy. On the training field, the players could wear smart glasses and get their ‘plays’ broadcast onto their field of view. Quarterbacks could run through every potential play so that, come game day, they already had a picture in their minds as to who and where they were throwing to.
Wearable tech will give professionals more insight into themselves than ever before
In the next decade, Dr Pearson also anticipates athletes being tasked with donning ‘active skin’ – wearable electronics that allow professionals to monitor their technique, whether it’s running (athletics), hitting a ball (golf or tennis) and so on. All of which could be used to help transform an individual’s muscle memory.
Dr Pearson even believes technology could usher in new competitive sports akin to Formula 1 racing. Drone racing is likely to become a competitive pursuit, with racers controlling drones that would look akin to a Star Wars pod race. Pearson said the sport could be “regulated” in a similar fashion to F1, with the speed of individual drones capped to increase the element of driver skill.
It’s not just the sports stars and athletes themselves that are likely to benefit from next-generation tech. Dr Pearson anticipates fans being offered special glasses at live events, which showcase real-time in-play data and offer the chance to zoom in closer still to the action.
When you consider how much technology has changed the goalposts in professional sport since the turn of the new millennium, it’s fascinating to see what the next decade or two has to bring.