If you have ever been to a cricket match, or indeed taken part, you will know that it can be a long drawn out affair. Imagine the efforts that are required of commentators to maintain the interest of its spectators. A company in India, linked to the giant Intel, has created a sensor which can be fitted into the cricket bat, and which produces some incredible statistics in real time. That should give everyone something to talk about!
The signature sound of cricket is the thwack of a willow bat hitting a leather ball. At the ICC Champions Trophy Tournament, though, which started in England and Wales on June 1st, the bats were emitting more than those soothing reverberations. They have been fitted with sensors that enable them to fi re off wireless reports that reveal how a batsman played the ball. Spectators were also treated to the slightly less pleasant whine of electric motors, as a drone armed with infra-red cameras performed reconnaissance fl ights over the pitch .
A TECH GAME
2. Both gadgets are the brainchildren of Intel, a chipmaker commissioned by the International Cricket Council ( ICC), the sport’s governing body, to find new ways to keep fans entertained. Cricket is no stranger to technology. Until now, though, attention has been focused mainly on the bowler and the
ball. A system called “HawkEye” tracks the ball’s trajectory, helping pundits analyse bowling styles and umpires judge leg-beforewicket decisions. “HotSpot” uses infrared cameras to determine where a ball struck the bat, or the batsman.
3. But the subtleties of a batsman’s style have so far escaped scrutiny. Commentators must rely on little more than educated guesswork, says Anuj Dua, an Intel director. To fix that, Intel and Speculur Technology Solutions, a firm based in Bangalore, have developed BatSense, a diminutive gadget that players can attach to the top of their cricket bat.
4. Based on a coin-sized Intel microcomputer, BatSense incorporates accelerometers, a gyroscope and a wireless transmitter, allowing it to beam data to the commentary box on everything from bat angles to stroke speed. Besides snazzy graphics on match day, the system can also help hone a batsman’s skill, says Atul Srivastava, Speculur’s boss. A version aimed at amateurs that enables the device to transmit to a smartphone is under development.
WE NEED TO TALK
5. Cricket’s languid, civilised pace can pose problems for commentators, who feel the need to keep talking even when not much is happening on the field. A favourite topic is the state of the pitch, the strip in the centre of the field where most of the action happens, and the state of which can have a big impact on bowling. But as with talk of a batsman’s technique, such discussions are often little more than conjecture.
6. Hence the drones. Before the matches, and again at lunch, a machine of the sort used to analyse farmland flies over the pitch. It maps things like topography, grass density and soil moisture, providing hard data for pundits to chew over.
7. Such augmentations may seem out of place in a game so wedded to tradition. The trick, says Mr Dua, is to feed fans’ appetites for fresh insights without distracting them from the game itself. So drone flights will be limited. And because BatSense is so small and unobtrusive, there should be no change to that talismanic sound of leather on willow.
SPORTS AND TECHNOLOGY
8. Game analytics enables play enhancement by analysing performance on field and assisting coaches in taking corrective action. It helps predict performance and develop winning game plays. The ‘gut feeling’ that has traditionally dominated sport is waning away. Players and coaches alike are depending on analytics to train, instruct, and excel. Most major sports have incorporated analytics in training and coaching to gain competitive advantage. Digital technologies are also playing an increasingly important role engaging sports fans with 360-degree replays and new athlete performance data. For instance, this year, the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball League (NBA), the National Collegiate Athlete Association (NCAA) and Professional Golf Association (PGA) turned to new viewing experiences from Intel freeD camera technology or Intel True VR to immerse fans with new visual perspectives.
Sri Lanka's Kusal Janith plays a shot during the ICC Champions Trophy match between India and Sri Lanka at The Oval cricket ground in London, Thursday, June 8, 2017.
Speculur BatSense with Intel technology inside.