VAR Is Ruining Football, And Tech Is Ruining Sport

The symbol of all that is wrong with football.

Another week in football, another VAR controversy to fill the column inches and rile up the fans. If you missed it, Coventry scored a last-minute winner in extra time in a crucial match—an FA Cup semi-final. Only, oh wait—computer says no. VAR ruled Haji Wright was offside, and the goal was disallowed. Coventry fans screamed that the system got it wrong, but no matter. Man United went on to win and dreams were forever dashed.

Systems like the Video Assistant Referee were brought in to make sport fairer, with the aim that they would improve the product and leave fans and competitors better off. And yet, years later, with all this technology, we find ourselves up in arms more than ever.

It’s my sincere belief that technology is killing sport, and the old ways were better. Here’s why. Continue reading “VAR Is Ruining Football, And Tech Is Ruining Sport”

Is It A Game? Or A Calculator?

If you are a certain age, you probably remember the Mattel Football game. No LCD screen or fancy cartridges. Just some LEDs and a way to play football when you should be in class. While these might seem primitive to today’s kids, they were marvels of technology in the 1970s when they came out. [Sean Riddle] looks, well, not exactly at the games, but more like in them. As it turns out, they used chips derived from those made for calculators.

[Sean’s] post is a glimpse into this world of over four decades past. Football was actually the second electronic game from Mattel. The first one was Auto Race. There were also games called Space Alert, Baseball, and Gravity. Inside each are quad in-line packages with 42 pins, a Rockwell logo, and a custom part number.

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Cute NFL Standings Tracker Uses Little Mini Helmets

If you’re a die-hard sports fan, there’s nothing you love more than staying abreast of developments in the league, from top to bottom. [Kiu] had a family member that was big into NFL, so set about building them a remarkably cool ladder tracker.

The tracker displays the NFL league table with a ten-minute delay, thanks to a paid live data feed from MySportsFeeds.com. When an update comes in, miniature helmets representing each team in the competition are moved into the correct order. The helmets sit on little plastic tags that make moving them easy, reliable, and repeatable. Built using parts familiar to the 3D printer world, this tracker relies on steppers and V-rails for linear movement, under the command of an Arduino Nano.

It’s a build that would look great in any games room, and we bet a scaled-up version would look the business in an upmarket sports bar. Let’s be honest – the league’s top quarterbacks will all be fighting to have one of these sooner rather than later. That’s not to say it won’t sting to come home to your team’s helmet scooting down the board after a painful loss!

We’ve seen some other interesting sports tracking projects over the years, too. Video after the break!
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Air Football Looks Pro

If you are an American, you’d probably think of [Silas Hansen’s] project as “air soccer” but most people will prefer air football. Either way, it is like air hockey but more of a football field feel. The project looks great — if you saw this on the shelves of the local toy store, you wouldn’t think anything of it. You can see a video of the game in action, below.

Unsurprisingly, the brains of the game are an Arduino. The case looks good thanks to laser cutting and 3D printing. A Roland printer produced the stickers that really dress the case up, but you could find another artistic way to do the decoration.

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Hackaday Links: November 8, 2020

Saturday, November 7, 2020 – NOT PASADENA. Remoticon, the virtual version of the annual Hackaday Superconference forced upon us by 2020, the year that keeps on giving, is in full swing. As I write this, Kipp Bradford is giving one of the two keynote addresses, and last night was the Bring a Hack virtual session, which I was unable to attend but seems to have been very popular, at least from the response to it. In about an hour, I’m going to participate in the SMD Soldering Challenge on the Hackaday writing crew team, and later on, I’ll be emceeing a couple of workshops. And I’ll be doing all of it while sitting in my workshop/office here in North Idaho.

Would I rather be in Pasadena? Yeah, probably — last year, Supercon was a great experience, and it would have been fun to get together again and see everyone. But here we are, and I think we’ve all got to tip our hacker hats to the Remoticon organizers, for figuring out how to translate the in-person conference experience to the virtual space as well as they have.

The impact of going to a museum and standing in the presence of a piece of art or a historic artifact is hard to overstate. I once went to an exhibit of artifacts from Pompeii, and was absolutely floored to gaze upon a 2,000-year-old loaf of bread that was preserved by the volcanic eruption of 79 AD. But not everyone can get to see such treasures, which is why Scan the World was started. The project aims to collect 3D scans of all kinds of art and artifacts so that people can potentially print them for study. Their collection is huge and seems to concentrate on classic sculptures — Michelangelo’s David is there, as are the Venus de Milo, the Pieta, and Rodin’s Thinker. But there are examples from architecture, anatomy, and history. The collection seems worth browsing through and worth contributing to if you’re so inclined.

For all the turmoil COVID-19 has caused, it has opened up some interesting educational opportunities that probably wouldn’t ever have been available in the Before Time. One such opportunity is an undergraduate-level course in radio communications being offered on the SDRPlay YouTube channel. The content was created in partnership with the Sapienza University of Rome. It’s not entirely clear who this course is open to, but the course was originally designed for third-year undergrads, and the SDRPlay Educators Program is open to anyone in academia, so we’d imagine you’d need some kind of academic affiliation to qualify. The best bet might be to check out the intro video on the SDRPlay Educator channel and plan to attend the webinar scheduled for November 19 at 1300 UTC. You could also plan to drop into the Learning SDR and DSP Hack Chat on Wednesday at noon Pacific, too — that’s open to everyone, just like every Hack Chat is.

And finally, as if bald men didn’t suffer enough disrespect already, now artificial intelligence is having a go at them. At a recent soccer match in Scotland, an AI-powered automatic camera system consistently interpreted an official’s glabrous pate as the soccer ball. The system is supposed to keep the camera trained on the action by recognizing the ball as it’s being moved around the field. Sadly, the linesman in this game drew the attention of the system quite frequently, causing viewers to miss some of the real action. Not that what officials do during sporting events isn’t important, of course, but it’s generally not what viewers want to see. The company, an outfit called Pixellot, knows about the problem and is working on a solution. Here’s hoping the same problem doesn’t crop up on American football.

ESP8266 And Sensors Make For A Brainy NERF Ball

For his final project in UCLA’s Physics 4AL program, [Timothy Kanarsky] used a NodeMCU to smarten up a carefully dissected NERF football. With the addition to dual MPU6050 digital accelerometers and some math, the ball can calculate things like the distance traveled and angular velocity. With a 9 V alkaline battery and a voltage regulator board along for the ride it seems like a lot of weight to toss around; but of course nobody on the Hackaday payroll has thrown a ball in quite some time, so we’re probably not the best judge of such things.

Even if you’re not particularly interested in refining your throw, there’s a lot of fascinating science going on in this project; complete with fancy-looking equations to make you remember just how poorly you did back in math class.

As [Timothy] explains in the write-up, the math used to find velocity and distance traveled with just two accelerometers is not unlike the sort of dead-reckoning used in intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Since we’ve already seen model rockets with their own silos, seems all the pieces are falling into place.

The NodeMCU polls the accelerometers every 5 milliseconds, and displays the data on web page complete with scrolling graphs of acceleration and angular velocity. When the button on the rear of the ball is pressed, the data is instead saved to basic Comma Separated Values (CSV) file that’s served up to clients with a minimal FTP server. We might not know much about sportsball, but we definitely like the idea of a file server we can throw at people.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an instrumented football. Back in 2011 it took some pretty elaborate hardware to pull this sort of thing off, and it’s fascinating to see how far the state-of-the-art has progressed.

The Internet Of Football

While football in the United States means something totally different from what it means in the rest of the world, fans everywhere take it pretty seriously. This Sunday is the peak of U.S. football frenzy, the Super Bowl, and it is surprisingly high-tech. The NFL has invested in a lot of technology and today’s football stats are nothing like those of the last century thanks to some very modern devices.

It is kind of interesting since, at the core, the sport doesn’t really need a lot of high tech. A pigskin ball, some handkerchiefs, and a field marked off with some lime and a yardstick will suffice. However, we’ve seen a long arc of technology in scoreboards, cameras — like instant replay — and in the evolution of protective gear. But the last few years have seen the rise of data collection. It’s being driven by RFID tags in the player’s shoulder pads.

These aren’t the RFID chips in your credit card. These are long-range devices and in the right stadium, a computer can track not only the player’s position, but also his speed, acceleration, and a host of other statistics.

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