So, what types of future technology will benefit sports?
First, a technology that is already here is HDTV. However, as of now the prices are extremely high and most stations do not have HDTV programming. Originally, the Federal Communications Commission set January 1, 2007, as the final date to turn off the existing analog television systems. However, Congress will inevitably delay that date until more than eighty-five percent of the population has access to digital television signals. Nevertheless, as prices drop and more stations become HDTV-compatible, sports fanatics will be able to watch their favorite games with better picture and sound. They will be able to feel even more like they are actually at the game, that their yells and screams can be heard by the players. Moreover, HDTV allows broadcasters to broadcast data via "datacasting," which uses the data that is transmitted in digital television signals. "Datacasting" opens up the possibility of interactive television, which could even further increase the relationship between the fans and the sport, as the fans could interact with the game they are watching. For instance, they could be polled as to whom the coach should substitute (and the coach could even use this information if he wanted to!). ESPN has already begun to bring HDTV to the sports world with ESPN HD, which starts broadcasting within a matter of weeks, while CBS, which broadcasts several sports games, has already made many programs available in HDTV. However, while HDTV may be the television of the near future, plasma screen televisions may end up being the solution in the more distant future. The picture of these screens is even sharper and brighter than the picture of HDTV televisions. However, plasma screens are extremely expensive and probably will not be commercially viable for several years.
Another technology that will benefit sports fans is holographic imagery. The way a computer produces a holographic image is by recognizing the presence and movements of people and objects, tracking those images, and projecting those images on a stereo-immersive surface. Holographic technology could greatly benefit sports fans. By being able to see a 3-D image of the game, they would feel as if they were actually there. As each play would ensue, each viewer would feel as though he were actually on the field, making the play with his favorite team. Also, the 3-D technology would benefit coaches and avid fans alike in that, with 3-D images, people could see different plays from all different directions at the same time. Thus, in the case of coaches, they would better be able to observe the mistakes players make, which would help them both improve their present players as well as decide which players to recruit.
Additionally, a technology that is already in place was created by Kansas-based Recreational Technologies SportMaster Pro. It is a Windows-based, touch screen computer allowing baseball scouts to keep track of games pitch-by-pitch. The companion "Umpire Information System" was developed for exclusive use of Major League Baseball by New York-based QuesTec, Inc. in order to help umpires evaluate their performance. This type of technology will no doubt spread to other sports, assisting coaches in scouting and helping umpires and referees improve their performances. Moreover, as this technology's price decreases from its current price of $2495, fans everywhere will be able to follow their favorite teams play-by-play, pitch-by-pitch just by pulling a hand-held computer out of their pocket.
Mechanisms to record previously unavailable athlete data are also becoming more prevalent. During the 2000 pre-Olympic race season, tiny sensors applied by NBCOlympics.com to Michael Johnson's chest and legs provided data on Johnson's changing heartbeat as he ran. The promoter of the device envisioned "tracking a quarterback's heart rate in the fourth quarter" as a unique technology available in the near future. As this technology expands to other sports and becomes more widespread, coaches will have a better knowledge of how their players are feeling physically, thus allowing the coaches to make the proper substitutions. Moreover, a technology that could track an athlete's heartbeat and other primary functions could prevent such tragedies as players dying during practice due to heat stroke, as a Northwestern football player did recently. This technology would have helped the coach realize that his player was in serious danger and may have prevented the situation from getting as serious as it did.
Technology has already added a great deal to the world of sports to enhance the experience of the players, the coaches, and, most importantly, the fans. More than ever, fans are becoming more connected with their favorite sports heroes from all over the world. Coaches and players are able to know more about other players than ever before, allowing them to better prepare themselves for their games. Great technologies are also coming that will enhance the sports experience for all in the near future. However, we must make sure that the technology does not interfere with the ideals of sports. For instance, when does a player know too much about his opponent that the element of surprise disappears? Nevertheless, technology will advance and, hopefully, the sports world will regulate itself regarding whether or not the technology is appropriate.