Thursday, August 24, 2017

Virtual Reality for Umpires & Manfred's Strike Zone

Virtual reality technology may soon be utilized in professional baseball umpire training programs while Rob Manfred's electronic strike zone stance has taken somewhat of a softer tone over the past week.

Robot umpire from Super Baseball 2020 (1991).
According to a SportTechnie podcast interview with Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall, several virtual reality vendors have begun making presentations to umpires regarding the incorporation of VR, though nothing formal has yet made its way from the Commissioner's Office to the World Umpires Association.

In an e-mail to ST, WUA general counsel Dan Purcell wrote, "The World Umpires Association supports all efforts to improve training for the umpires we represent. At this point, we’ve not received formal notice that the Office of the Commissioner wants to start using this technology. But we are quite willing to discuss any training technology that would help our members continue to perform their difficult jobs even better."

Both the NFL (STRIVR's Virtual Reality Training) and NBA have begun exploring VR technology in training of their officiating staffs and prospects.

Rob Manfred again discussed the strike zone.
Meanwhile, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who last week said he was opposed to the implementation of an electronic strike zone, this week qualified his comments, opening up the door toward the collective MLB ownership's power to remove the plate umpire's pitch calling role; Manfred's updated stance reflects his elected role as owner-answering Commissioner, which is a position voted on by the League's 30 owners; Manfred gained election in 2014 after six rounds of voting finally produced a three-fourths majority in Manfred's favor:
As a technological matter, I believe we will get to the point that balls and strikes can be called in real time by a machine...When the technology gets there, I'm sure the owners will have a conversation on whether they want to go to make that additional move of taking that human element out of the game. Right now, we don't have technology that in real time can more accurately call balls and strikes than our human umpires, who, let's not forget, get it right about 95 percent of the time.
Related PostAnalyzing Strike Zone Analysis - Not So Easy or Simple (10/27/16).
Related PostZobrist - Computer Ump Would Have Called Strike 3, Too (8/15/17).


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