Electronic Design

High-Tech Measurement Strikes America's Favorite Pastime

Strike three! Yer out!" Common at Major League Baseball games, a better call when high-tech measurement is up at the plate might be "you're in!" The computerized Umpire Information System (UIS) is set to smack Major League Baseball into the high-tech upper deck.

Developed by QuesTec Inc. of Deer Park, N.Y., this measurement system pinpoints a pitch's location within 0.5 in. After a game, umpires can view pitch data, video clips, and batter snapshots on their laptops. While the system won't replace the umpire's judgment during the game, it should provide an objective mode of feedback to improve the consistency of calls.

Testing began last fall as part of a five-year contract with Major League Baseball. The system includes several key modifications to QuesTec's commercial PitchTrax product. Licensed exclusively to the Fox Channels Group, PitchTrax is used as "in-game enhancement" during TV broadcasts.

UIS was developed under the guidelines of MLB's Office of the Commissioner to maintain strike zone accuracy and consistency. The ball-tracking component uses cameras in the stands off the first- and third-base lines. These cameras follow the ball from when it leaves the pitcher's hand until it crosses the plate.

Along the way, multiple track points are measured to precisely locate the ball in time and space. The speed, placement, and curvature of the pitch along its entire path are measured using this data. All portions of this process are automatic, including the detection of the start of the pitch, the tracking of the ball, and location computations.

The system has been installed at Fenway Park in Boston, the first location for official on-site testing. It also will be installed at six yet-to-be-determined Major League parks. The technology was developed by QuesTec for the U.S. military. Later, it was adapted for sports applications. For more information on the UIS, visit www.questec.com.

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