Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Coach: Blinky's In Foul Trouble

Via Info Aesthetics, a basketball telejersey that doubles as wearable information display: patches light up according to "fouls, score, and time clock." Although I'm mildly skeptical about the widespread uptake and implementation, to the idea I can only shake my head and say wow (i.e., holy mackerel). Something like this would be especially useful for youth levels of basketball where the emphasis is on development. When I was coaching the Stampede teams in KC a few years ago, it was common for us to invent scenarios where two players have four fouls or where one player on the other practice squad was lighting us up (I know, quite the marvel of coaching ingenuity, yeah?). The information-rich readouts on a jersey add yet another dimension to this, making it possible, I suppose, to complicate the number of variables introduced in any practice scenario.

It gets me thinking back to the halftimes of games in high school or college when our rediscovery of the pivotal statistics were delivered to the coach. I have how many fouls? No. 34 has two-thirds of their points? They're out-rebounding us 24-10? Of course, in-game statistics involving computers and call-and-enter statistician teams have drastically improved the timeliness of the data. But to display an array of information on the jersey definitely changes around the flows of statistical information.

What's most compelling about the readout jerseys is the added perceptual dimension they introduce--in-game feedback for everyone (players, coaches, fans, refs). Scoreboards can only accomplish so much, and they're often hard for players to see for extended periods. While the feedback about one's opponents is useful; equally valuable is the information about one's own teammates. Live indications of scoring streaks, foul trouble, free throw percentages (okay, so Shaq's FT percentage is already printed in big letters on his uniform).

I'm intrigued by these jerseys (but I am tempted to ask, what's up with the rock in the photos?). I look forward to hearing more about the leagues that pilot the shirts. It's purely speculative, but I can imagine a yet more futuristic uniform or kinesthetic body suit that registers physical contact between players and reports it to a computer system on the sidelines (oh no, much tamer than we get in Hopkinson's "Ganger (Ball Lightning)"). Several of the NBA's players are already wearing tights. Why not come up with full-bodied sensate tights that report all contact? 2050: Maybe they'll jump it up in an arena with precise and comprehensive optical and proprioceptive matrices that close the gap between data and activity.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at November 21, 2006 11:45 PM to Sport