Football and Technology

Technology Likely To Have Wide-Ranging Impact On NFL In 2020.

In a series of articles about the future of technology and the NFL, the Chicago Tribune (1/29, Farmer) reports, “No one can be precisely sure where technology will take the league in 10 years, and trying to guess is a fun but often fruitless pursuit.” Predictions historically have a spotty record of panning out. So far, “the incredible technological advances have been made in how and where we watch football, and how much information is at our fingertips.” The article considers what “the game look like in 2020” in terms of its scope, its composition, and the technology it will employ. “In many ways, the future is now. At a Pro Bowl practice last week, Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick wore a tiny camera on his helmet and the footage was posted on, giving football fans a chance to see how a play develops from his perspective.”

The Chicago Tribune (1/29, Farmer) reported, “Priya Narasimhan, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and her team of 10 engineering students have developed a ‘smart football’ with a miniature GPS unit and accelerometer, both contained in a half-ounce microchip inside the ball. The chip can measure factors such as ball speed, spin, trajectory and – even when it’s buried under a pile of players – the precise location of the football.” The technologically enhanced football is just one piece of technology the NFL is considering “to make officiating and game timing even more accurate.” The article describes some of the challenges the team faced outfitting the ball with new technology, such as determining a viable power supply and adding technology without altering “the weight, the spiral, the torque or the feel of the football.”

A third Chicago Tribune (1/29, Farmer) article reported football helmet company Riddell “has developed a futuristic system for measuring the severity of hits to the head, and tracking them over the course of the player’s football career.” The company “has specialized helmets fitted with accelerometers that capture, record and measure hits to the head.” Thad Ide, senior vice president of research and product development for Riddell, “said he can envision a day when NFL players wear helmets specific to their positions. So, for instance, an offensive lineman might have extra protection from all the hits he absorbs to the forehead, whereas a receiver might have additional protection to handle a hit to the side of the head.” The Tribune notes that “Riddell is but one of many companies in the ultra-competitive field of developing helmets and pads.”

Reposted from the 1/31/11 issue of ASEE First Bell

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January 2011

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