Archive for January, 2015

Imgur Introduces New Hosted Video-to-GIF Tool

Imgur continues to adapt to the demands of their market, after beginning to switch away from traditional GIF file types for the more efficient GIFVs, they are allowing URL based videos to be used in the creation of the GIF or GIFV. If a file size exceeds 10MB then it will automatically be converted to a GIFV. As a reminder, Imgur accounts are free — though you don’t need one to create the GIF/V — and GIFV files are both cleaner and smaller than the old GIF files.

Creating an embeddable GIF/V is as easy as copy-pasting the URL of the desired video and following the steps. Let’s give it a try.

From YouTube, we’ll take a look at South Korea’s run to the finals of the Asian Cup. Choosing where to cut the video on both ends is as simple as clicking on the slider bar at the desired times.

gifv1

Note that Imgur allows the option to embed text directly over the GIFV but be aware that at the time of launch, the text box is unable to be moved.

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Once you have the time of the GIFV down and the text correct, then it is a matter of time letting Imgur untangle everything. When you’re all set, there are options to share directly to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr and Reddit as well as a slew of embed and link options.

gifv3The finished product:

Get started right away and bring on the GIFVs!

(Source video courtesy of the official AFC Asian Cup site)

Zepp Updates App to Provide Personalized Training Tips

The newest update to Zepp’s baseball and golf app includes a new feature to personalize users’ training based on swing analysis.

The feature, called Zepp Insights, will produce reports that recommend drills to help users focus on personalized weakness in their swings. The reports will be delivered weekly, provided the user takes at least 30 swings during that week. Using millions of swings collected from its users, Zepp will identify which of the five calculated swing parameters — bat speed at impact, maximum hand speed, time to impact, vertical angle at impact, and attack angle — is most in need of improvement. The report will then recommend training drills and tips from their existing video library.

The new update will also include swing goals across all metrics based on the user’s skill level. In previous versions of the app, only bat speed goals were set automatically, with additional goals relying on user input to tag the hit type and direction.

In addition to the drills and overviews featuring Cubs hitting coach John Mallee, Zepp also provides swing data and video of a number of MLB hitters, including Mike Trout, David Ortiz, and Giancarlo Stanton. The pros offer advice on more “real-world” scenarios, such as staying back on a curveball and hitting the ball the other way.

CEO Jason Fass said the new update provided personalized, actionable data to its users, better helping them improve their swings.

“Our goal is to provide analysis that not only collects numbers from the sensor, but offers ways to improve those numbers through content in our app,” Fass said. “We need to engage and elevate athletes by personalizing tips gleaned from their captured data.”


120 Sports Now Supports AppleTV

In another step in the right direction for cord cutters, 120 Sports, the company that launched live streaming sports news, analysis and previews has expanded from mobile versions to include AppleTV. Supported by Sports Illustrated and working with MLB, NHL, PGA, NBA, NASCAR as well as a slew of college conferences, 120 Sports is a free service for sports fans without cable packages.

120apple

While the AppleTV compatibility is new, both iOS and Android versions have been available for over six months. The company boasts 10+ hours of live sports coverage every day, starting at 8 am eastern. On the app versions you can search for popular previous broadcasts via the Catch-Up hub or go to the Trending section to see what is on the rise, though to follow a specific player or team you’ll have to be using the app, not the AppleTV version.

With an indexed and searchable on-demand system, 120 Sports offers a ton to consumers. The ability to follow specific teams, leagues or even national teams is a great feature as well.

120follow

A slight knock on the app is that if a team, Queens Park Rangers for example, may not be popular enough, it isn’t even searchable. Clubs such as Arsenal, Man City and United and others are all searchable and able to be followed, but it appears as though only the big teams can be found.

It doesn’t need a login for the website version, however it does utilize your Google Play or App Store email for the mobile versions. Despite lacking live sports events, the highlights from 120 Sports alone make it well worth the download. Seeing the expansion to the television sets instead of mobile only is great progress as well.


4th Down Bot is a Super Bowl Must-Have

It’s Sunday. The sun has set. Katy Perry and all that is horrible about corporate America’s involvement with the Super Bowl have gone with it. You’re stuck on the couch, beyond bloated from stuffing your trap with pigs in a blanket, chips and guacamole and seven Bud Light Platinums. The Seattle Seahawks hold a 17-14 lead with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Tom Brady and his New England Patriots failed to convert on third down and goal at Seattle’s four yard line. Take the sure three points against Seattle’s defense, right? No, no. Go for it on fourth down, because if the Pats don’t make it, Seattle has horrible field position.

What do you do? Flip a coin? It’s hard to think through the fog of booze and carbs. “What do you do?” asks Dennis Hopper’s Howard Payne from 1994’s blockbuster Speed. “What do you do?”

Refer to 4th Down Bot. He’s got all the fourth down answers.

Produced by The New York Times in 2013 and upgraded for this NFL season, 4th Down Bot utilizes a model created by Brian Burke of Advanced Football Analytics and ten years of data to live-critique coaches’ decisions via the Bot’s web site and on TwitterThe Times published its methodology here. It bases decisions on expected points, which measures the average number of points each situation is worth. The creators admit the model is similar to that developed by David Romer, a University of California, Berkeley economics professor who authored a paper in 2002 exploring  fourth down options. The Times notes more seasons of data differentiate the two models.

“The game is ball possession, and coaches are losing sight of that,” David Leonhardt, editor at The Times, told Bill Littlefield of Only A Game.

The model assumes both the offense and defense are league average, with its goal of scoring as many points as possible. But once the fourth quarter hits, winning becomes the priority. The Bot measures how often teams won following a punt, field goal kick or fourth down attempt using data from NFL games played previously played.

Here is an example from The Times:

A field goal is worth 3 points, if it’s successful. But there is a catch: after scoring, you must kick off to your opponent, which, on average, will begin its drive on the 22-yard line. Judging from the chart above, a first-and-10 from your 22 is worth about 0.4 points. To NYT 4th Down Bot, a field goal is worth 3 points minus the cost of kicking off: 3 – 0.4 = 2.6 points. (Similarly, a touchdown and extra point is worth 7 – 0.4 = 6.6 points.)

What if the kicker misses? It’s a long field goal, about 55 yards, and the success rate of 55-yard field goals is only about 40 percent.

If the kick is no good, the opponent takes over on its 45-yard line. From our chart above, a first-and-10 from there is worth about 1.8 points. In this case, however, it is a first down for your opponent, so the point value from your perspective is –1.8 points.

NYT 4th Down Bot uses the expected points from success, the expected points from failure and the likelihood of each outcome to compute the net value of a decision.

Per the scenario above, 4th Down Bot would have kicked the field goal and settled for a 17-17 tie with 22 minutes of championship football left.

To be certain, the Bot is a fun tool for couch coaches everywhere rather than a serious, analytical decision-maker. It has its holes (it still doesn’t know what teams are playing, their strengths, or injuries involved). But when you want to look smart in front of friends and family this Sunday following a huge fourth down play, just whip out the Bot. He’s got your back.

“What do you do?” Payne asks again.

Take the three points.

Image via M P R


Bans Handed Down From Valve For Match Fixing

In the wake of the allegations and subsequent investigation formed from The Daily Dot’s Richard Lewis in regards to match fixing, Valve — creators and developers of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive — has acted quickly by banning all parties involved announced in a blog post. Most of the former team iBUYPOWER as well as others involved have received bans from Valve. The ban list which includes professional players and community figures is as follows:

Duc “cud” Pham
Derek “dboorn” Boorn
Casey Foster
Sam “Dazed” Marine
Braxton “swag” Pierce
Keven “AZK” Larivière
Joshua “Steel” Nissan

Of particular note is Braxton Pierce, recently named HLTV’s 18th best CS:GO player of 2014. While there is no sole governing body in esports, let alone CS:GO, Valve did not act alone in their ban of the players from Valve-sponsored events. Competitive leagues ESEA, FACEIT and CEVO have all banned the guilty players for a minimum of one year.

Valve notes they were able to confirm the guilt after tracking the items (or skins) by looking at the historical activity of the accused accounts. Though the players apparently did not wager any money, there was thousands of dollars worth of bets in the form of skins the iBUYPOWER team wagered on the opposing underdog team NetCodeGuides.com. By throwing the match for what equated to a monetary gain, the CS:GO community cried out for justice, and it was served.

While thousands of dollars worth of in-game items may seem like a lot of money, it pales in comparison to formal bets on the games. Recently the 2015 Aspen X Games hosted a Major League Gaming CS:GO portion and popular betting site CSGO Lounge tweeted out a rather staggering figure for bets they handled on day one:

csgo

If Valve continues to step in and clean up the professional ranks of CS:GO — they and ESEA banned several professional players such as Hovik “KQLY” Tovmassian in November and ESEA more recently banned Andre “flex” Francisty  live on stream — then it betters esports as a whole. With money from sponsorships, advertising revenue and the integrity of the game on the line, Valve acted quickly. It isn’t the first time a governing body has handed down bans for wagering on games, from sAviOr and StarCraft to the much more famous Pete Rose and MLB, gambling on games where you directly affect the outcome hurts the image of the sport.


Startup deCervo Uses Brain Training to Boost Hitters’ Performance

There are four inches of fresh snow on the Brown University campus, but in a little office in the Pizzitola Center, junior Tim McKeithan is training to recognize sliders and curveballs.

McKeithan is tracking simulated trajectories on a computer screen while wearing an electroencephalograph (EEG) headset. It’s part of a new system developed by deCervo, a New York-based startup, to measure hitters’ decision-making process.

deCervo is led by Jordan Muraskin and Jason Sherwin, who met during their doctorate studies at Columbia University. Although the company is still in its infancy, the pair have been working on the underlying technology for several years, and have been featured in a number of prestigious publications. And teams are starting to take notice — Brown is the fourth NCAA Division I program to work with deCervo, joining Illinois, Bradley, and Ivy League rival Columbia. Sherwin also said the group was “in talks” with some Major League Baseball teams, and hopes to work with professional hitters during spring training.

The program relies on the Advanced Brain Monitoring B-Alert X10, a wireless EEG headset. The nine electrodes are attached to flexible plastic strips, and are evenly distributed around the subject’s scalp. The signals from the electrodes are sampled at 256 Hz and transmitted wirelessly via Bluetooth for storage on a personal computer.

Once the subject is wearing the headset and the signal quality has been checked, the training can begin using deCervo’s custom-designed software. Before each pitch, a pitch type — fastball, curveball, or slider — is displayed on a blank screen for a second or two. The label disappears, and a green “ball” moves according to one of the three trajectories. If the pitch trajectory matches the type displayed at the beginning, the subject presses a key, representing the decision to swing. The program stores the accuracy and response time for each trial, as well as the EEG signals recorded from the headset.

After McKeithan finishes his training and removes the headset, Muraskin processes the data and explains the results. His software allows them to break down the EEG signal into various components, with markers at the trial start, the moment the pitch first appears, and the time of key press. Muraskin also plots McKeithan’s accuracy as a function of reaction time.

“There’s usually a jump around 300 or 350 milliseconds where the player really starts recognizing the pitch,” Muraskin explained. But, to his surprise, McKeithan has improved, and is starting to recognize the pitches around 270 ms.

“That’s really good,” Muraskin said.

deCervo (whose name is from the French for “of the brain”) are not the only company training baseball players’ brains. Aaron Seitz from UC Riverside gave a talk at last August’s Saberseminar on the improvements the Highlanders’ baseball team saw after training with Ultimeyes, his vision training game. And Boston-based Neuroscouting also offers brain training solutions for elite baseball players. And although Sherwin did not claim to be an expert in Neuroscouting’s techniques, he had heard enough to draw a comparison between the two companies.

“In our research we’ve worked with musicians, with soldiers, with athletes,” Sherwin said. “We see that there are certain brain circuits that are tuned towards whatever context or expertise that person has. And we think that our tech is more efficiently tapping in to what those circuits are doing, and how well they’re doing.”

Support for this belief comes from the differences in performance deCervo sees between baseball players and non-baseball players, as well as the difference between players of different skill levels. Sherwin (who has no baseball playing background beyond high school) contrasted his performance while developing the program with that of McKeithan, who correctly determined whether or not to swing 86 percent of the time.

“It’s a very high number that we see consistently with our players,” Sherwin said. “Jordan and I made this experiment and we still haven’t been able to hit 86 percent accuracy, and what’s even more amazing is that their response time is significantly lower than ours.”

Sherwin also explained that better players produced both higher accuracies and lower response times, suggesting that the program could not only separate good from bad players but also identify the strengths and weaknesses of individual players. So Sherwin and Muraskin began developing profiles, based on each subject’s results, to suggest areas for potential improvement.

“Nobody wants to air their dirty laundry on the field,” Sherwin said. “You don’t want to look like a schmuck missing the slider low and away in the game, you’d rather practice that. Better to do it in the privacy of your own home, on an app or something.”

For now, though, deCervo isn’t suggesting specific practice plans for players, but instead are working with coaches to confirm their findings and discuss how coaches will work to fix each player’s agreed-upon weaknesses.

“The first step is having some kind of common ground,” Sherwin said, “Us showing that we’re measuring what we think is relevant for hitting a baseball, and them also recognizing that this is relevant for hitting a baseball.”

And so far, the coaches they’ve worked with have been receptive to the feedback deCervo is providing. Sherwin said he and Muraskin were excited by their early feedback, especially from Brown head coach Grant Achilles.

“Coach Achilles here, his line is emblazoned in my memory, he said, ‘You guys are showing on a statistical and empirical level what we’re seeing with our players.'”

Grant Achilles took over the head coaching job on an interim basis midway through last season, and is about to start his first full season in the top job. Achilles and his staff use a number of advanced metrics to measure his team’s performance, but doesn’t see himself as a sabermetric pioneer.

“Am I somebody that Bill James will be quoting in his book? Probably not,” Achilles said. “But it’s certainly something that’s growing in baseball, and if you don’t pay attention to it, you’re going to be left behind.”

Before coming to Brown, Achilles was an assistant coach at Wake Forest and Georgetown, big-time athletic programs with big-time athletic department budgets. But the comparatively smaller budget of Brown has forced Achilles to think more creatively about ways to improve his players. Achilles first heard about deCervo through an alumnus, who contacted the new coach after reading about the technology in a research journal. Achilles struck up a relationship with the company’s founders, and the Bears began a training program in December. Although it’s too early to see results in game situations, Achilles is already excited by what he’s seen.

“The actual data they’ve kicked back has given traction to stuff that we’ve seen as coaches but you really can’t explain,” Achilles said. “This data gives us a clearer understanding of why guys are either struggling with pitches or doing well in other situations, so it’s truly backed up the results we’ve seen on-field and in practice.”

The immediate future for deCervo, aside from branching into MLB, is developing a single piece of software that teams could use themselves (after some training) to train players and track their improvements over the course of a season. Sherwin and Muraskin also plan to develop a simpler mobile version of the software for players to use without the EEG headset.

“What’s interesting about the app is that given that we’ve done this [data collection] with a bunch of players and a bunch of non-players, we have a database now of what the neural predecessors look like on average in terms of the behavioral metrics,” Sherwin said. “So if we measure the behavioral metrics, we have an approximate measure of what the neural response looks like beforehand, give them an idea of what their most likely neural response is.”

deCervo is also starting to look outside baseball, working with an NHL team to measure how well goalies recognize puck trajectories and offensive formations. The company has also started to work with the Columbia football team, measuring how fast defensive linemen get off the line when the ball is snapped.

“All this stuff we’re doing right now, we’re starting pretty simplistic and building up,” Muraskin said. “There are things [teams] are doing that fit in well with what we’re doing but we would bring a more rigorous, scientific approach.”

Correction: A quote has been changed in the tenth paragraph from “towards whatever concept or expertise that person has” to “whatever context.”


Two Tech Partnerships Unveiled During NHL All-Star Weekend

The NHL has long been perceived as somewhat behind the times with their unique brand of legalized fisticuffs, but their latest partnerships with GoPro and Sportsvision could make the NHL the leader of the big four pro sports in player tracking technology.

First, the NHL announced they will broadcast live GoPro footage of its players during telecasts. Previously, GoPro has been relegated to partnerships with extreme sports. This is is their first foray with a major pro sports league. According to Techcrunch, GoPro will receive additional branding opportunities as part of their deal with the NHL as an “Official Partner.” The live broadcasts were a part of the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend and you can see a clip of some previously shot footage below.

In another announcement, the NHL revealed they would be using player tracking technology in both the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game. The technology was created by Sportvision, which also provides real-time tracking technology for NASCAR and the NFL. To track the players and the puck in real time, Sportsvision has created a puck that contains a microchip and has infrared light tubes around the outside. As Sportsvision CEO Hank Adams explained to Yahoo Sports, “We have infrared cameras up in the catwalks, 10 of them. They see the flash of the puck, which is a unique frequency, and different than the flash of a player tag. And each player tag has a different frequency. We slip it into a pocket of the jersey, and it shines through brightly.”

The puck was the toughest nut to crack, something that took Sportsvision years to perfect. According to the Washington Post, Sportsvision partnered with the NHL’s puck manufacturer to recreate a puck that would play the same way as current game pucks. Adams says, “When you throw the puck on the ice, and the standard puck, they won’t be able to tell the difference,” Adams said. “It’s not livelier, deader, no extra rebound, heavier, it is basically the same puck from their standpoint.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman praised the possibilities of the technology, saying, “This is, if I can coin a phrase, in the embryonic stages of a work in progress, but ultimately we are hoping to deliver the kind of data that will create insights and tell stories that avid and casual hockey fans will enjoy. In short, we are attempting to embark upon a journey that hopefully will enable us to create and then maintain a digital record of everything in our game and compile a complete digital history.”

For NHL fans, the technology will provide real-time times stats during broadcasts, including player speed, shot speed, and player ice time, among other information. Below is some footage of the tracking technology in use during the NHL Skills Competition.

The technology will also be used for viewers using a second screen, where fans can follow the game in real time similar to MLB’s At Bat app. Users will able to track in the puck, player position, and ice time in real-time. Below is the second screen software the NHL showed off during All-Star Weekend.

The are plenty more uses for this technology, including the ability to develop advanced analytics like the MLB and NBA, as well as new ways for fans to watch their favorite teams. For the naysayers who remember the glowing puck experiment by Fox Sports in the 1990s all too well, I can assure you this is not a repeat. On the contrary, these new partnerships could provide the NHL an advantage that it doesn’t have over more popular pro sports leagues for years to come.

(Image via gryphon1911)


Asian Cup Viewership Numbers: Growing But Stunted

Soccer is inarguably the world’s sport, however acceptance to the top flight of sports in certain nations is yet to come. Despite not advancing out of a tough group with powerhouses Spain and Netherlands, as well as surprise second-place finisher Chile, Australia did have a relatively strong showing in the most recent World Cup — particularly in the narrow 2-3 loss to Spain. Even going back to the 2010 World Cup where the Socceroos were edged by goal differential after finishing group play tied at second place with Ghana, the support from television broadcasters hasn’t translated well for Australian soccer.

Australia is currently hosting the 2015 Asian Cup, where 16 teams from around the Pacific and Indian Oceans have been hitting the pitch, and Australia is just one victory away from making the finals. The path for Australia — and for viewers — hasn’t been the easiest one however. Each match Australia has played has been televised on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) or Fox Sports in Australia with casts on CCTV-5 for China, with other broadcast partners showing games around the world. These numbers do not reflect various streaming services either — strictly television.

After finishing second in their group behind South Korea, Australia dispatched China 2-0, as over 95 million people spread across the globe tuned in at some point during the match. From China, an average of 27 million people watched the quarter final matchup, shattering the previous record of 23 million. China is not alone in their upward numbers, as both Japan and South Korea have seen rises in viewership. With the success of the television numbers — numbers that should be taken with a large grain of salt as any viewer using an unofficial stream is not counted — it is curious to find that ABC is airing only the Australia games live. Fox Sports has handled all other games, though some were shown on a tape delay.

Here in North America exclusive Asian Cup coverage has been given to ONE World Sports, a channel that is unfortunately limited in availability. After ESPN lost out on the World Cup broadcast rights it would have made sense for them to get back into the soccer game with a tournament of this size. Given NBC’s recent expansion into European soccer, grabbing the Asian market would have also made sense for them.

For now, as a big fan of the South Korean team, I’m forced to find alternative online options rather than watching on TV, even though my TV package includes dozens of sports channels. If time zone differences are the argument against showing the Asian Cup — and given my sleep schedule over the past weeks, that is a strong argument to make — then how is Canada streaming the games via ONE World Sports, while the United States is left in the dark? While the popularity of soccer continues to gain ground here in the United States, if the old saying of “misery loves company” is true then Australia is our brother in the struggle to find the proper medium to deliver sports content.


The Stadium of the Future

CNET recently ran a story in which it dubbed the Golden State Warriors’ next arena “the stadium of the future.” With the arena scheduled to open in 2018, team executives are experimenting with new technology. “We can’t light this [new arena] up already being out of date,” said vice president of digital and marketing Kenny Lauer. And, being in the Bay Area, it’s tech’s home team. This should be the stadium of the future when some of Silicon Valley’s finest are at every game.

It seems the most successful experiment so far has been with iBeacons, an Apple product that uses a Bluetooth low-energy signal to notify iOS users as they approach or pass an iBeacon. The Warriors use the tech to alert fans about seat upgrades, discounts at the team store and concession deals. It can also be used to map out an arena and help you find the nearest bathroom to your that beer line you’re going to wait in. But the Warriors don’t offer this solution, yet.

Image via Jonathan Nalder

Image via Jonathan Nalder

The Warriors will soon roll out sound amplification, which broadcasts sound from microphones placed on the court through the arena’s speakers. Now the dribbling ball on the hardwood, squeaky sneakers and Steph Curry’s sweet swishes won’t just be for the front row fans. During the five-game trial, the Warriors will broadcast to an entire side of the venue.

And then there’s LiFi, which the Warriors are exploring. It’s like WiFi, but uses light rather than radio frequencies to transmit data via LED bulbs. It has a much wider bandwidth and has reached data rates of over 10 gigabits per second. The range is shorter because light waves cannot penetrate walls, but it’s cheaper to maintain than its counterpart. How would the Warriors use it? They’re still trying to figure that out.

They are building two groups, one to focus on the tech and another that will determine how to integrate that tech in to the fan experience.

“Thinking about the challenges we have with Wi-Fi and the available frequency space in the visual light spectrum, the opportunities are unreal,” Lauer told CNET. “These are the kinds of things that are fascinating.”

And while all of this does sound intriguing, I don’t think it completely resolves issues fans have that keep them away from live sporting events. The biggest, most obvious challenge teams face selling tickets is the cost. Let’s assume this won’t be fixed, and focus on some other issues I want to see in my stadium of the future.

Designers of future stadiums aim to mix technology and sustainability. But sustainability is boring. I don’t really care how you make it 70 degrees in the arena, just make it 70 degrees. So let’s let the municipalities worry about that. Here’s what I want to see.

Bathroom Roombas

You know how one guy sober guy doesn’t always get every drop into the toilet even in his own home? Imagine 20,000 men, half of them drunk, rushing to pee between plays in a jam-packed bathroom that isn’t one they have to clean. Then, imagine how many will vomit in same said bathroom. It’s pretty freaking filthy. I want Roombas constantly sweeping through legs and around feet, spotting moisture and soaking it up. I don’t want to worry about soaking my Converse in the leftovers of the beer Kevin in Riverside pounded three hours earlier in the parking lot.

Robots

While the mix of high school drop outs and senior citizens bumping in to each other in a crowded concession stand is entertaining for two minutes, it becomes frustrating and time consuming. I want to order, pay and pick up my food so I can get back to the game. And frankly, the current system isn’t working, except when it’s a Wednesday night game in September in Miami with the Padres in town.

I want Johnny Five of Short Circuit taking my order quickly, efficiently and accurately. Send emo Jade and grandma Helen to parking lot duty.

Speaking of parking lots…

Maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy, but I hate fighting traffic to get to a game, hunt for parking and then battle 15,000 other vehicles to leave the stadium via three exits. I want sensors that indicate open parking spots I can view on an app that will direct me to open spots. When it’s time to leave, I want to use the same app to avoid the most severe congestion so that I don’t have to spend 45 minutes listening to the callers on the post-game AM radio show theorize why Albert Pujols didn’t bunt with the tying run  on second and no outs in the bottom of the tenth. I just want to get home and get to sleep. I’ve got stuff to do the next day.

Mute buttons

I don’t want to listen to that Top 40 music blaring during play of a NBA game. MUTE. Hey, Oakland A’s fan. You’re being a total jerk and I don’t want to risk you throwing your turkey leg at my head when I turn around after telling you to shut up, or getting stabbed walking out of the stadium, or my heart exploding because you’re stressing me out. MUTE. What, 3-year-old daughter I brought to the game because my tickets didn’t sell online? You want cotton candy and you have to pee and you want to start the wave? MUTE.

This is just a start. What do you want to see in your stadium of the future?

Image via Volker Kotidtz 


OOTP Gets an MLB License

Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) announced they now have an official MLB license for the upcoming OOTP 16. I just want to say: I was on the ground floor of this thing. Well, maybe not the ground floor. But I got in before it got all fancy.

I heard about OOTP where most people hear about it — in a job interview, naturally. A guy from some department came hustling over — him being a fan of sabermetrics, him being vaguely aware of my writing — and he eagerly told me about OOTP and its superiority to Baseball Mogul (which I still love). I thank that man for introducing me to OOTP. Thanks, man.

So what does this MLB license mean to the average game player? Well first, it means a game that annually ranks as the best in all of everything is getting better. But more specifically, it means we don’t have to sift through a bunch of competing add-ons or wait for the big special All in One add-on in order to play a game that looks and feels like an MLB entity.

Those are real, honest-to-goodness MLB logos!

Those are real, honest-to-goodness MLB logos!

For those who haven’t played before, the old way was this:

  • Download the game.
  • If you downloaded the game on day one: Sift through the add-ons for realistic faces and accurate team logos.
  • If you downloaded it maybe a week after the game’s release: Download the All in One mod.
  • Install those mods.

Now, we should be able to:

    • Download the game.

There may still be some mods that throw in international team logos and whatnot, but I expect the average user will be able to download and enjoy a full experience. Oh, also — see the top image — it appears they are making more steps for the in-game 3D stuff.

I am hyped. Everyone else, get hyped too.

Game Reviews:

98 A+ Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2015 (PC)
98 A+ Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2014 (PC)
97 A+ Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2013 (PC)
96 A+ Baseball Mogul ’13 (PC)
96 A+ MLB ’12 The Show (PS3)
79 C+ MLB 2K12 (PS3, XBOX 360, Wii, PC, etc.)
74 C MLB Ballpark Empire (Facebook)

Retro Review:

82 B- MVP Baseball 2003 (PC)


ESPN and Major League Gaming are Teaming Up for the X Games

The Aspen 2015 X Games have kicked off already — they can be viewed on various ESPN networks, provided you have a cable subscription — however one portion of the X Games can be viewed without any pay access. Partnered with Major League Gaming, X Games is streaming the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament on MLG.tv at no cost. Highlights from the CS:GO tournament will be shown during the television broadcasts of other X Games events.

Some controversy already surrounds the CS:GO playing field. After qualified team Clutch Cats pulled out of the tournament, Torqued (formerly team iBUYPOWER) the second highest in both qualifiers, was overlooked in favor of Team Liquid. Despite going out in the second round of each qualifier, Team Liquid was chosen over the arguably more deserving Torqued. Many reasons had to be a factor in MLG’s decision, however a match fixing scandal involving Torqued and previous team iBUYPOWER members may have been a factor.

The Daily Dot initially broke the news of a potential scandal, citing particularly poor decision making and gameplay from iBP, text messages, as well as suspicious betting. The last part is of particular note, as betting on CS:GO matches yields thousands of dollars of in-game weapon skins (patterns and designs) every tournament. The biggest betting site is CSGO Lounge, where there are active bets for individual matches made nearly every day. With this much real-life money on the line, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility for match-fixing to be a major concern.

Given that this is the first major ESPN and X Games venture into CS:GO, it is no surprise they decided to “play it safe” and invite Team Liquid. While CS:GO tournaments regularly receives over 100,000 unique viewers, the partnership of highlights and cut-ins to the main ESPN broadcast could bring about more growth to the Counter-Strike community. The games begin Friday with a round robin group play where the four teams in each group play a matchup against one another, with the top two teams advancing to the bracket stage. Up for grabs is a $50,000 prize pool split among the top four finishing teams, plus betting wins — and losses — for viewers at home.

(Featured image via Monster Gaming)

The Mariners Are Now Using LEDs to Light Safeco Field

Night baseball in Seattle, both in person and on TV, will look a great deal crisper thanks to some recent upgrades to Safeco Field. In the first such move in Major League Baseball, the Mariners have replaced their outdated lighting structures with new LED fixtures, which should bring a whole new level of clarity for fans both at the game and on their couches.

LEDs are popping up in all kinds of places including our gadgets, our TVs, and even the bulbs in our lamps. But illuminating a whole baseball field with LEDs should prove to be a very new experience for fans. There will be less glare, more even distribution of light, and the green of the field should really pop under the new lighting.

There are other advantages to the conversion as well. The Mariners are predicting a drop in energy consumption of filed lighting by 60-70 percent. The new bulbs will also last much longer, reducing waste and maintenance costs. TV viewers will get some added bonuses as well, as the lights will not only make the game look better on their HDTVs, but LEDs will also eliminate the flickering effect seen when super-slow replays are presented.

There haven’t been a whole lot of advances in field lighting since the Cubs were the last to install the fixtures in 1988. Though the upfront costs might be significant, the lasting effects and cost savings of LED lighting on a ball field will hopefully make their way to more parks soon. As very few games are played during daylight now-a-days, working to upgrade the fan experience at night would be a welcome addition. Reducing energy usage and waste is certainly a bonus, and watching Robinson Cano bash homers under the best possible lighting should give the fans at Safeco something more to enjoy.

(Image via Dave Sizer)

MLS Joins NFL and NHL In Adopting Concussion Tracking Technology

Major League Soccer has announced they will begin implementing the concussion tracking device xPatch next season in order to further study the effects of head trauma on their players.

The xPatch was recently used in a rugby match by the London-based Saracens (no relation to Friday Night Lights character Matt Saracen, unfortunately). Some in London have dismissed the patches, calling them gimmicky, but Edward Griffith, the Saracens CEO, responded tersely saying, “It is the furthest thing from a gimmick. This is not something we just thought would be good to try out last weekend. This has been nine months in the planning. We have set aside a budget of £350,000 for it for next season funded by the Drake Foundation because we believe wholly in the significance of the research. I don’t want to be visiting these players in 20 or 25 years time in a hospital where they are suffering from dementia or some other neurological condition.”

The xPatch, made by Seattle-based X2 Biosystems, contains a gyroscope and accelerometer that are encased in plastic. They are 1” by 3” and placed on a bone behind the players ear and taped down for games. The xPatch records all of the head trauma a player experiences and sends the information to trainers via an app.

A device like the xPatch may have been able to better track the head trauma former MLS star Taylor Twellman experienced during his career (he retired after suffering his sixth concussion). Twellman has since committed to donating his brain after his death for concussion reasearch and has his own foundation, Think Taylor, to raise money and awareness for concussion prevention.

Further implementation of the device could also help prevent scenarios like the one that occurred during the NFL playoffs on January 3rd, when the Ravens Courtney Upshaw had a rare clean sack of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who’s helmet bounced off the turf when he went down.

Roethlisberger returned to the game five minutes later after having his neck and shoulders tested and going through the NFL concussion protocol. He looked shaky when he returned to the huddle and proceeded to throw an interception on his first snap, causing some to speculate that he returned to the game too soon.

Dr. Matt Matava of the NFL Physician Society explained to the Guardian previously that X2 Biosystems technology, “has allowed us to accurately diagnose concussions immediately following an injury [about six to eight minutes after a hit]. The software also allows us to compare the players’ injury date to their baseline in order to objectively assess changes in mental status.” All 32 NFL teams currently use X2’s concussion management software.

The hope is that the technology becomes unobtrusive enough for players of all contact sports to use during games to detect in-game head trauma and track the sub-concussive impacts a player experiences over the course of his career. Considering the tragic deaths of former NFL stars Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, and the nightmare that the NFL concussion settlement has become, it’s a breakthrough that can’t come soon enough.

(Image via Bay Area Bias)

Don’t Worry, Super Bowl Streamers. You’ll Still Be Able to Get the Commercials

We mentioned yesterday that the Super Bowl will be available to stream on NBC for freesies. However, if you were to watch via NBCs web stream, you wouldn’t get to see all those commercials everyone would be talking about the next day at work. Social suicide, to be certain! But fear not, cord cutters. Tumblr has you covered.

According to Reuters, NBC will be posting the highly-anticipated (and highly-priced) ads on Tumblr shortly after they air. This will allow people watching via stream, people not watching at all, or fans looking to re-watch their favorites an opportunity to catch all the spots that run during one of advertising’s biggest days.

While many companies post their commercials to sites like YouTube and Vimeo, NBC will curate their own one-stop shop for the ads. For some, the commercials are just as (or perhaps more) important as the game. NBC is smart to offer those taking advantage of their new streaming service to also catch the ads online — not to mention a repository for repeat viewings. It will take a little multi-tab navigation, but at least game streamers will now know what the hell everyone is talking about on Twitter.

(Image via The Inspiration Room)

Instagram’s New Beta Test

Succumbing to the world of selfies — and of course selfie sticks — is nearly inevitable at this point. Given the rapid growth of Instagram, now owned by Facebook, it isn’t hard to envision how social media integration is making people’s lives and interests public. Just days ago at the NCAA National Championship football game fans used more than a staggering six terabytes of data. Recently, Instagram launched their latest beta test update for Android platforms, a voluntary way of helping them troubleshoot as well as give feedback to the developers for what will eventually be their next update.

Despite just pushing out a major update back in December where five new filters were added, the brains behind IG seem keen on keeping up to date with new versions of the app. The beta update is free, you just have to join the Google+ group and then opt-in to the beta test. Once you’re in, you’ll see a confirmation message.

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You’re also given the option to opt-out whenever you’d like. Given the very nature of beta testing, there may be some kinks to work out, however in the early going the changes have been for the best. Officially, the only changes to this beta version are various bug fixes, though more features could be unrolled as the beta progresses.

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Be it concerts or sporting events or even a just a group of friends watching a game, wherever there are groups of people, posting pictures and videos are a part of lives now.


NBC to Live-Stream Super Bowl, No Strings Attached

Make sure your laptop and tablets are locked and loaded come Super Bowl Sunday. You’re going to need them.

NBCUniversal today announced plans to live stream 11 hours of Super Bowl content, no strings attached. Those strings typically include a log-in process with the consumer’s cable or satellite account information. NBC will not be streaming via mobile app, however, as they do not have NFL live streaming rights. But with a tablet or phablet and the right web browser installed, streaming from nbcsports.com/liveextra shouldn’t be an issue.

The 11 hours, which is five hours too long (figure 3 ½ hours for the game, 45 minutes each pre and post-game shows) will be followed by the midseason premier of The Blacklist. That’s quite a gift for cord cutters that happen to love both Marshawn Lynch and James Spader. NBC’s coverage starts at noon ET and figures to end around 10 pm ET.

NBC’s motive for its “Super Stream Sunday” is to promote its TV Everywhere marketing campaign, naturally entitled “Watch TV Without the TV.” TV Everywhere is the practice of content providers using authenticated methods, such as streaming or video on-demand, to allow customers to access content they already pay for via the internet or mobile devices.

“We are leveraging the massive digital reach of the Super Bowl to help raise overall awareness of TV Everywhere by allowing consumers to explore our vast TVE offering with this special one-day-only access, said Alison Moore, general manager and executive vice president of TV Everywhere and NBCUniversal.

Cord cutters beware – after the Super Bowl, TV Everywhere will only work with a valid user name and password associated with one’s provider account. But maybe this is NBC’s one big step in a direction of genuinely free live streaming – a future of connecting to a stream without a provider account.

“Consumer behavior is changing and people are looking to have content when they want it and where they want it,” Rob Hayes, executive vice president of NBC Digital told USA Today last month.

Katy Perry fans are also in luck. According to the press release, this is the first time NBC Sports Extra Live is live streaming the halftime show.

NBC did add that users will “receive consistent messaging in and around the experience about the ease in authenticating after the end of The Blacklist.”

(Image via The Inspiration Room)

Cheaper Drones Means More Drone Racing and Hoverbikes, or I’m Going to Sue Everyone

The BBC had a drone article recently that surveyed both the history and potential uses for drones, as well as examined their rapidly decreasing cost and increasing quality. This furthers the idea Michael Tunney presented on these pages — the idea of Battle Bots 2.0. And what I’m saying is that the world is ready for drone sport. As costs decrease, there is increasingly fewer reasons to not jump into this exciting world of drones doing athletic things for us.

Behold, France has already turned the corner and is zipping down the next hedgerow:

First of all: What a much of mega nerds. Secondly: How awesome is that?! Recreating one of the better chase scenes in movie history as a drone race? The view these pilots get looks nothing less than an absolute thrill adventure.

What better way to combine the exciting new technologies of our era — virtual reality and drones? Well, here’s another way we could take it up a notch:

There are two things here: a) Those hoverbike drones plus that French drone course equals a world-changing racing event of unparalleled awesomeness. And then b) that same device, maybe made life-size, makes for an awesome actual recreation of the forest chase scene from Return of the Jedi.

Or maybe just hoverbike races on standard race course? Or all-terrain hoverbike races? THE POSSIBILITIES!

  1. Games could be broadcast live on sites like Twitch or even YouTube.
  2. As the sport grows, goggles that show the stationary view of the mounted camera can be replaced with integrated VR-camera technology, so that whenever a driver’s head moves, the camera moves with him.
  3. Or better yet! Maybe the multi-camera technology involved in Google’s Street View cars becomes small enough that all views are broadcast simultaneously. The driver wants to keep his eyes forward? Fine. Joe Blurpington of Constance, Iowa, wants to watch the rear as drones chase the leading vehicle? He can do that too!

What I’m saying is: This will be awesome, or I will throw an earth-shattering tantrum.


The Market for SmartTVs

From the latest Global Web Index report — Q3 2014 — more than one in three households with an internet connection now have a SmartTV. Unsurprisingly, the age range of 25-34 held the highest ownership rate at 42%, however income had a greater effect on SmartTV ownership than age. The top income quartile reported at 50% ownership rate. SmartTVs are no longer a trend, but something that has arrived.

As the graphic displays, the way people are using their SmartTVs is also evolving. On-demand services such Google Play was used by 39% of owners, Netflix ranked second with 27% and iTunes usage rates followed at 26%. Amazon Prime services were used by 17% of SmartTV owners and SoundCloud showed a 14% rate.

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Given the popularity of such streaming services — particularly among the highlighted 25-34 year-olds — the continued rise of SmartTVs working with more and more streaming options should come as no surprise.

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While there is not an official Twitch.TV app for various SmartTVs, there are options for watching YouTube streams listed here.

The second screen experience — something sporting events and video games excel at — is of particular note. Two out of three people told GWI they use a smartphone while watching TV, with one-third stating they use a tablet. A simple search at the time of writing of Twitter’s trending topics show 8/10 being related to sports, be it trades, scores, signings or other.

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It’s clear the market for SmartTVs is on the rise. Count on more programming, both on television and streaming services, being catered towards SmartTV owners. The full report can be found on GWI’s website here.


Whistle Sports Raises $28 Million From Investors Including Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning

Burgeoning digital sports network Whistle Sports announced they closed their Series B round of funding, raising $28 million led by Emil Capital Partners and featuring prominent athletes like Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning as investors.

The network launched in January 2014 and has experienced tremendous growth in only a year, with close to 13 million YouTube subscribers, while gaining 10 million new social followers across their platforms each month. The next closest sports YouTube channel is the NBA at close to six million subscribers.

Their most popular YouTube channel partner is Dude Perfect, the group of Texas A&M alums who got their start making ridiculous basketball trick shots. They have also begun forming content partnerships with professional athletes like Jeremy Lin.

The network’s revenue has been more than doubling each quarter and their videos have been viewed over two billion times. This can be attributed in part to the network’s popularity with the much sought after demographic for advertisers—young males (78 percent of their viewers are male).

Along with pro athlete content partnerships, Whistle Sports has partnered with nearly all major pro sports franchises, including the NFL, MLB, PGA Tour, and NASCAR. In an interview with Forbes, John West, the CEO of Whistle Sports, described the companies relationship with sports leagues, saying, “Each is a true partnership, in which they give us access to their libraries that we use to co-create content, and then we distribute that content on our platforms as well as theirs. Why did they all choose to partner with us? They’re losing young viewers and they have to adapt and evolve—we’re the vehicle to make that happen.”

With nearly 40 percent of their viewers from outside the US, the company has recently opened an office in London and is planning opening another in Latin America this year.

Given their amazing growth and plans to go international, Whistle Sports is now a giant in the digital media space, building in one year what took others like VICE years to do.

(Photo by George Bush Presidential Library and Museum via Flickr)

 


College Football Fans Used Over Six Terabytes of Data at the National Championship Game

These days, if a stadium wants to boast about its amenities, it better be sporting a high-capacity WiFi network. Fans are not only there to watch the game, but to keep up on other games, post pictures of themselves on social media, and even watch highlights captured at a much better vantage point. All this can be done over cellular networks, certainly, but for maximum speed and reliability, fans are looking to connect their mobile devices to WiFi. And fans at the NCAA Football National Championship were certainly sucking some bandwidth at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

According to a report by Mobile Sports Report, the in-stadium WiFi at AT&T Stadium carried 4.93 TB of data over its network during the game on Monday night. AT&T also saw 1.41 TB travel over its cellular network. This totals over six terabytes of data from computers and mobile devices, and that’s not even counting data transmitted on Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint Networks. Even so, that number is higher than any data total posted at a sporting event, including last year’s Super Bowl and the home opener of the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium.

While this number won’t be repeated on your typical NFL or MLB game day, it’s proof that more and more fans want the reliability (and free-ness) of WiFi when using their devices at sporting events. Though these types of things are rarely publicized, I imagine many teams in slightly older stadiums are working on or planning to work on upgrading their current infrastructure. This spike in data usage isn’t something that is going away any time soon. Teams would be smart to be on the front end of this trend.

(Image via Ron Kikuchi)