3 really smart sports inventions

Published on August 24th, 2012
3 really smart sports inventions

When it comes to fair play, the umpire or the ref can only see so much… which is why these amazing technological inventions play such an important role in the modern match.

1. Hawk-Eye
Hawk-Eye was one of the first sporting technologies ever to be developed. It’s designed to help us track objects that are moving too fast for the naked eye, such as a golf ball flying off Ernie Els’ club or a tenis ball zooming away from Roger Federer’s racquet.

But how does it work? A minimum of six cameras are placed around the field where they match is taking place. Each camera is fixed on a particular spot, where it films what’s happening throughout the game. The info from all the different cameras gets fed through a computer programme that traces the flight path of the ball and displays it on screen for everyone at home. And it all happens before you can scream, “ref!”

Hawk-Eye was invented by (and named after) a British guy named Dr Paul Hawkins, who is an expert in sports surfaces and equipment with a PhD in Artificial Intelligence. With a degree like that, it’s wonder he came up with such a super-intelligent device…

2. Slow motion action replay
Slow motion action replay (or just slo-mo to friends) is exactly what its name suggests – it allows viewers to replay what happened at a much slower speed, to see what really happened. The info it provides can overrule or reinforce the decision of an on-field ref.

The first person to invent the slow-motion technique was an Austrian priest and physicist named August Musger, who patent the first slow-motion camera way back in 1904. Today, the technology is used all the time by TV broadcasters around the world… but it doesn’t always have an official role in decision-making during a match.

The technology works in one of two ways: you can either film the game normally and then replay the footage more slowly so each frame of film stays on the viewer’s screen for longer, or you can film the entire event using a dedicated slow-motion camera. This kind of camera captures more frames per second than a standard camera (which captures 24 frames per second), which means that the action gets slowed down when you play the frames back at a normal speed. Smart, but simple.

3. The speed gun
In 1992, an engineer named Henri Johnson invented a device that’s now used in cricket matches all over the world… and he did it right here in South Africa! The device was called the Speed Gun, and it was designed to measure the speed and angle of a fast-flying object like a cricket ball zooming through the air.

A few years later, Henri’s company – Electronic Development House or EDH – created RacquetRadar, which measures the speed of a tennis player’s serve, and in 2004, they developed a world-famous device called FlightScope, which uses radar to track a golf ball in 3D and predict where the ball will end up. The technology is so advanced that, if you hit a ball into a net three metres away, FlightScope can tell you exactly how far and how well you hit the shot!

Just goes to show: you don’t have to be a top sportsman to rock the world of sport and be a part of every top international game.

The above three smart inventions were brought to you by 3M, a company that uses curiosity and creativity to solve problems around the world every day. Click here to read more about this awesome, innovative company.


Credit: image from Flickr/federico.casella