Couch tubers rejoice. We have seen the future of sports TV -- at the Sportvision technology lab in Mountain View, Calif. -- and it is swank. You're probably already familiar with Sportvision's main claim to fame: the Emmy Award-winning yellow first-down line. (How did we live without it?) The firm also developed ESPN's K Zone, which tracks pitches in three dimensions as they cross the plate, and a hoops telestrator that lets analysts diagram plays on the court but "under" the players. Now, utilizing computers in ways we can only hope to grasp, Sportvision's engineers are eyeing the next great game-watching gimmick. What do they have in mind? And where do these minds come from, anyway? The answers to both queries are inside Sportvision's war room (it actually says "war room" on the door). Brace yourself.
It started very badly. As a News Corp. minion in 1996, engineer Stan Honey conceived the hate-it-or-loathe-it glowing puck for Fox's NHL broadcasts. Undeterred by purists who wanted his head, he teamed with News Corp. biz wiz Bill Squadron to start Sportvision in 1998. Redemption soon followed.
Some of Sportvision's ideas are genius. Some make Teddy Ruxpin look like a genius. Among the DOAs: systems that measure home runs, the speed of a flying football and ballers' verts. "Really, they don't jump very high," says engineer Ken Milnes. Clearly, Arvydas Sabonis is one of their advisers.
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This article appears in the December 23 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
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