Mixed Reality: A technology cricket should exploit

Microsoft-HoloLens-RGB-640x360[1]Cricket loves experimenting. Batsmen experiment with different bats and stances. Bowlers experiment with various types of deliveries. The administration experiments with the rules (If there were an app for the rules of cricket then it would top the chart for the most number of updates). We, the fans love experimenting with different seating positions, or sometimes lying positions – if you are sloth bear while watching a game of cricket

If there is a sport that embraces technology assertively, then it is none other than cricket. Over the years, we have seen cricket adopt new technologies for enhancing the sporting experience, improving accurate decision making and sometimes for bland visual treat.

Cricket has successfully adopted the hawkeye technology to track the trajectory of the ball, the hotspot technology to trace the impact of the ball and TV umpire to help the on-field umpires make correct decisions. Add to that the super slow motion cameras that help batsmen push bowlers’ actions under the microscope to do a molecular level appraisal and the spider cams and the camera conveying quad-copters which bring us views of the divine game from the heavens.

Even though new technology brings us a lot of benefits, the major drawback is that it slows down the game. The hitch is exhibited prominently in games like soccer and basketball where there is comparatively non-stop action. But cricket, here, is immune to the drawback since the game is already sluggish. A basketball player would finish a toast and empty a cup of coffee in between two balls in cricket.

Here is where mixed reality could come to the rescue. This prompts the obvious question. What is Mixed Reality? Well, it is a simple, novel way of changing the way we interact with digital devices. Just as how the happening generation is immersed in the world of smartphones, mixed reality may very well be the adversary for us- the future parents!

Mixed Reality simulates physical presence in the real world. All you need to do is to wear slightly bigger eyeglasses. Then you can see simulated objects in the environment around you. Just imagine your calendar app in the place of your physical calendar on your room wall. You can digitally mark dates, assignments and meetings and can even erase markings or even modify them. After wearing the eyeglass, you can have a virtual clock, video player, TV screen and so on and so forth virtually in your surroundings.

Trying to enhance our perception is being enthusiastically endeavored by various tech giants including Microsoft, Google and Facebook. Even though, each tech company uses different technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality or sometimes mixture of more than one, the focus of this article will be on mixed reality where you can have the virtual world interact with the real world.

To get an even better understanding, I suggest you watch this video about Microsoft Hololens, which utilizes mixed reality.

So how can this technology help a sport like cricket? To analyze its applications in cricket, let’s look at the applications from the following perspectives.

  • Mixed Reality in decision making
  • Mixed Reality for batsmen
  • Mixed Reality for bowlers
  • Mixed Reality for captains


Mixed Reality in decision making

Umpiring/ Decision making is a field where mixed reality can make a significant difference. Currently, the Decision Review System is a hugely debated topic in the cricket ecosphere with the foremost argument against DRS being the delay it produces during a game.

The delay a technology generates can have a significant impact in the smooth flow of a game which in turn can upset the viewing experience of the fans. Just imagine when DRS is used during the finishing stage of a match which is rocketing towards a rollicking end. The captain of the fielding team or the batsman will take 15 seconds at the most to go for a review. Then, the on-field umpire would refer the decision to the third umpire. The third umpire will have to go through hawkeye, hotspot, snicko and slow motion replays depending on the type of the possible dismissal to arrive at a conclusion. Then the decision is conveyed to the on-field umpire who would publicly apprise everyone of the decision. The whole process will consume at least 5 minutes.

But, what if the on-field umpires have access to hawkeye, hotspot, snicko and the slow motion replays to make a decision? Barring the time taken for the compilation of data from the relevant technological tool used, the decision can be made almost as promptly as an ordinary decision that does not need a referral. Consider how much time can be saved by avoiding going upstairs to review a decision and then coming back downstairs to declare it?

Using Mixed Reality, an umpire could hawkeye projection in the real world environment virtually

If the speed of compilation of hotspot data and hawk eye data can be increased, we can get an accurate, real-time decision.

Mixed reality can fulfill our need of providing the on-field umpires with tools they need. Envision being able to see the trajectory of the ball that has just been bowled by a bowler in real life instead of seeing it on the screen. By wearing an eyeglass, the umpires will be able to virtually use the hawkeye in real life. This would mean the umpires can take a few more seconds to see the trajectory of the ball virtually before making a tough decision.

The above is applicable to LBW decisions only. In the case of caught behinds and bat-pad catches the umpires should be able to view the hotspot footages just like watching a video on a digital gadget. The same is applicable to snicko too. Slow motion replays can also be procured just like watching a video on the screen.

All necessary angles would be holographically placed in the field of view of the umpire. The umpire can then choose the necessary footage by using gestures.

So all decisions can be made accurately on the field and there won’t be any need for a third umpire. And a significant amount of time can be saved by forgoing the need to refer the decision to a third person.

Mixed reality for batsmen

During the course of a match, the media broadcasters often throng our TV screen with various graphical data. The hawkeye gives us the details of the balls a batsman has defended, attacked and left alone. With the use of sophisticated analytical technologies, we also get to know the strong and weak zones of a batsman. Even though batsmen can access the generated data at the end of the game to analyze their batting  to improve their game, would it not serve them better if they can get real time data while on the field? For instance, if a bowler is troubling a batsman, then the batsman can analyze the lines, lengths, and the direction of swing or spin to conjure a better way to handle him. This will also allow a batsman to target a bowler who is having an off day.

This technology could help analyze each and every delivery a batsman has faced in a realistic manner

Mixed Reality can materialize the above novel idea of streaming live data into a batsman’s vision. This will make cricket statistics have real time impact on a match and will definitely increase the competitiveness between bat and ball.

Mixed Reality for bowlers

Just like the batsmen, bowlers can analyze their own lines and lengths. They can see which types of balls have been defended, hit for a boundary or which balls have troubled the batsman. Bowlers can also know how a batman has used his crease by looking at the place the bat has met the ball, which will allow them to adjust their tactics against a particular batsman accordingly.

A virtual bowling marker could help you aim better

Furthermore, with the help of mixed reality bowlers can have virtual markers on the pitch allowing them to aim for a particular line and length more accurately.

Mixed reality for captains

Captains are saddled with the responsibility of making game changing decisions which can win/lose a game for their team. Though teams decide on specific field setting for different individual batsman based on past statistics, what comes to pass may significantly differ on-field. For example, a batsman who is extremely strong in the leg side might struggle on a particular day to play the ball to the leg side. Here is where live statistics might help captains to decide on the right field placings.

What if the captain can see what we see?

Using Mixed Reality, a captain can look at the prominent scoring areas of a batsman and can place his fielders accordingly.  He will also be able to analyze the performance of each bowler while still on the field and make the necessary bowling changes.

Thus, Mixed Reality would make statistics very much relevant during the course of a game. But just as it is with any technologies it too has its downsides.

The flip side

The technology requires the user to wear an eyeglass. It will be up to individual preference whether or not to feel comfortable with a gadget sticking on your face. Additionally, extensive research has to be done to eliminate any possible visual hindrance the eyeglasses can have in viewing real life objects such as a cricket ball moving at a whirlwind speed.

Security concern is another major complication. What if a bookie manages to communicate with players/umpires through Mixed Reality? However, since such complex infiltration needs sophisticated hacking mechanisms and the use of skilled technicians, the possibility of it can be safely ruled out at least until the near future.

This is a novel concept which is definitely ahead of its time. But it is a technology if applied appropriately could change the way we play cricket.

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