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Four Ways Technology is Changing Sports Officiating

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Hawk-Eye (Tennis)

Even though video replay may be useful, it's still pretty low-key. So, like George Lucas changing Yoda from a puppet to a CGI, tennis made the leap to computer rendering. The Hawk-Eye system, based on ESPN's Shot Spot feature, uses cameras set up around the court to track the ball's path and create a 3D rendering of where the ball hits. Besides being used to judge if a ball landed in or out, Hawk-Eye can also be used to analyze a player's strategies. In its sporadic uses, Hawk-Eye has proven effective, usually serving to anger the players whose points get taken back from the replay.

Microchip Balls (Soccer)

Fans of the Tottenham Hotspur were up in arms after a game they lost because a ref wasn't paying attention. The team scored an obvious goal, but the linesman didn't see it and simply signaled for play to continue. That prompted soccer officials to unveil a new ball, partially designed by Adidas, with a microchip in it. The chip would signal the official whenever it crossed the goal, thus negating the effect of refs napping on the job. The ball made its debut at the 2005 Under-17 Championship and has made sporadic appearances since. In terms of accuracy, the ball has been a success, although that could also be due to refs actually doing their job. However, some players have complained that the microchip makes the ball travel differently and is harder to control.

Umpire Information System (Baseball)

Being the home plate umpire in baseball has always struck me as one of the most difficult jobs "“ in a split second, you're expected to determine if a pitch was in or out of an imaginary box. To help standardize strike calling and reduce umping mistakes, Major League Baseball instituted a digital check on its umps in the form of Questec's Umpire Information System. The UIS doesn't correct calls on the field; instead, it compares the computer's results to the ump's. The technology stirred up controversy, with players arguing that it didn't take batters' size into account and was making umps scared to make controversial calls. Arizona pitcher Curt Schilling even smashed one of the cameras in his home stadium with a bat after a particularly rough outing. Reportedly, one of the umps told Schilling to break the other one.

Video Replay (Just about every sport)

ref_hood.jpgAfter Wayne Gretzky, video replay may be the best Canadian import to sports. A 1957 Canadian hockey broadcast marked the first use of instant replay, a technique that would soon revolutionize sports broadcasting and officiating. Since then, most major sports have adopted rules to allow officials to consult video feeds to correct calls. Baseball is the latest arrival to the replay party, with a recent decision to explore using video replay to check whether a ball has left the park or is fair or foul. Even though replay is used in sports as unusual as rugby, cricket and rodeos, the most unusual use of replay is listed in this Wikipedia entry (though research couldn't find another mention of the incident). At a high school quiz bowl tournament at Michigan State University, one team argued that the moderator had "allowed more than a natural pause" during a question. A judge noticed that a parent had been taping the tournament and took her camera, using the video to reverse the panel's original decision.

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The Library of Congress Wants Your Help Identifying World War I-Era Political Cartoons
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. government’s official library wants your help. And it involves cartoons.

The Library of Congress just debuted its new digital innovation lab, an initiative that aims to improve upon its massive archives and use them in creative ways. Its first project is Beyond Words, a digitization effort designed to make the research library’s historical newspaper collection more search-friendly. It aims to classify and tag historical images from World War I-era newspapers, identifying political cartoons, comics, illustrations, and photos within old news archives. The images come from newspapers included in Chronicling America, the library’s existing newspaper digitization project.

The tasks involved in Beyond Words are simple, even if you know nothing about the illustrations involved going into it. The Library of Congress just needs people to help mark all the illustrations and cartoons in the scanned newspaper pages, a task that only involves drawing boxes to differentiate the image from the articles around it.

Then there’s transcription, involving typing in the title of the image, the caption, the author, and whether it’s an editorial cartoon, an illustration, a photo, a map, or a comic. The library also needs people to verify the work of others, since it’s a crowd-sourced effort—you just need to make sure the images have been transcribed consistently and accurately.

A pop-up window below an early 20th century newspaper illustration prompts the user to pick the most accurate caption.

Screenshot via labs.loc.gov

The data will eventually be available for download by researchers, and you can explore the already-transcribed images on the Beyond Words site. Everything is in the public domain, so you can remix and use it however you want.

With the new labs.loc.gov, “we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” Carla Hayden, the library’s head, said in a press release.

Other government archives regularly look to ordinary people to help with the monstrous task of digitizing and categorizing their collections. The National Archives and Records Administration, for instance, has recently crowd-sourced data entry and transcription for vintage photos of life on Native American reservations and declassified government documents to help make their collections more accessible online.

Want to contribute to the Library of Congress’s latest effort? Visit labs.loc.gov.

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Slow Wi-Fi? It Could Be Your Neighbor's Fault
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If your Wi-Fi connection remains interminably slow no matter how many times you restart it, you can probably blame your neighbor. It could be that there are too many people using Wi-Fi connections on the same channel, even if you're all on different networks. But, as Tech Insider teaches us in the video below, there is a way to circumvent this, returning you to the prime TV-streaming Wi-Fi speeds of your dreams. (These instructions apply to Mac users, but if you've got Windows, How-To Geek recommends a tool called the Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector to do the same job.) It seems like a lot of steps at first, but it'll be worth it—we promise.

If you’ve got a Mac, hold the Option key while clicking the Wi-Fi symbol in your top menu bar. Go to “Open Wireless Diagnostics,” then when that opens, go up to the top left menu bar and click the drop-down menu “Window > Scan.” That will open up a window with all the nearby Wi-Fi networks. Click the “Scan Now” button on the bottom right, and your computer should recommend the best channels for you to use—say, you’re on Channel No. 1, but the best 2.4GHz channel is No. 3. Tech Insider recommends writing those down (there are options for both 2.4GHz channels and 5GHz channels).

Now, you’ll need to break out your iPhone. Download the AirPort Utility app, and go to your phone’s settings. Scroll down to the AirPort Utility app in your app list, and enable “WiFi Scanner.” Use the app to scan your house for Wi-Fi networks and note which channels are commonly used by your neighbors’ networks. (If you don’t have an iPhone, you can also use Acrylic Wi-Fi for Android or Windows phones.) This will help you avoid the most congested networks.

Then, log onto your router on your computer by typing your router’s IP address into your browser, just like you would any web address. From there, go into Wireless Settings, and change the channel your network operates on to one of the recommended options that you wrote down from your computer's diagnostics window earlier. And don’t forget to save!

This should help you get a faster internet connection by minimizing the amount of interference from other networks around you. Because the best neighbors are the ones who don't slow down Game of Thrones for you.

See the process step-by-step in the video below.

[h/t Tech Insider]

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