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The equipment looks clunky, the uniforms impossibly baggy. Even the bodies of the players look weirdly out of shape. Like any human endeavor, sports evolve over time.
Science and technology fuel these changes, providing ever-better gear made with superior materials, better information about nutrition and training, and improvements in data generation and analysis that help push the limits of athletic capability.
Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger? How augmented reality will change sports … and build empathy ponders the impact AR, particularly Google Glass, could have on major sports. Below, an edited transcript of that conversation.
Read on to hear how each of these thinkers parses the fine line of fairness when it comes to new science and technology in sports, and what each thinks competitions will look like 10 years from now.
How did each of you became interested in looking at the intersection of sports and science? A big topic right now is traumatic brain injuries in sports, and so being able to really understand what happens in various sports—not just football, but in all sports, in terms of what causes traumatic brain injuries—is key.
I have some personal interest, because I have kids and they participate in a variety of sports. For me, I was a national-level middle-distance runner and went on to become a science grad student. I transitioned into sports science writing after one of my training partners dropped dead after a race.
I got really curious about how that could happen to someone who otherwise seemed to be a picture of health. I grew up with a lot of Jamaican guys, and we had this great high school track team. At the age of 16, I looked up Jamaica in an atlas and realized there are two-and-a-half million from that island—I started to wonder what was going on there.
As I moved up to running longer distances in college, I was running against Kenyan guys, getting to know them, and realizing they were all from the same town, basically — from this big minority tribe in Kenya.
I started to want to look into some of those questions. Sports are a vehicle for many, many people—you have a very wide audience, and so when you get these emerging technologies in sports, then you see them adopted very rapidly.
The idea that now we can actually record from a first-person perspective what it is like to be a world-class, professional athlete on the field, and then experience that through either seeing it on TV or other media.
With Google Glass, how do you see that technology changing the landscape of football—and other sports—in the future?
I think it will initially shift the viewing perspective. From there, it leads to people becoming more comfortable with the idea of things like augmented reality and virtual reality, which leads into that being adopted more and more into everyday life.
In the sporting world, that means augmented reality being adopted into the actual sports themselves. Or something that highlights the receiver, or warns you if a guy is coming off your blind spot, for instance tackling against quarterback.
No one even thinks of not having a cell phone, but there was a point when cell phones were big briefcase, clunky things that only executives on Wall Street had. I would have to say some of the motion-capture techniques that are out there.
They no longer require markers or instrumentation to be placed on the athlete—you can just use the camera. Some people are using Kinect systems, and some people are using a little more high-tech systems.
We have a lot of biometric type feedback stuff available to us now as well in terms of just being able to monitor heart rate, respiratory rate, and things of that nature during the actual event.
One is individualized training. Some countries that are starting to put this into effect.Training Needs Analysis Products and Solutions Do you want to work smarter by optimising your business processes, focus on the business critical tasks and create more room for the professionals?
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