Electronics Challenge: Create The Next Baseball Techology

The K-Zone

baseball-k-zone If you marvel at TV sports technologies, from the yellow first-down line in football, to digital goal lines in hockey and new camera angles that allow you to feel like you are floating on top of the action, The K-Zone, developed by Sportvision and ESPN, gives fans the ability to instantly and objectively determine balls and strikes. But technology cannot replace the umpire just yet. There are other jobs of the umpire – calling balks and foul balls and determining if runners are safe or out at home plate to name a few. This is where we challenge you to design the next baseball technology.

Your Challenge: Design A Technology to Make the Calls at Home Plate

How would you design a technology to perfectly measure whether a runner is safe or out at home plate? In other words, your technology must determine which event occurred first, the runner touching the plate or the fielder tagging the runner, simple, inexpensive designs are preferred.

How the K-Zone Works

The umpire, subject to human error, determines the rectangular strike zone as the width of home plate and the height of the distance from the batter's armpits to his knees. The K-Zone defines the strike zone using a camera set beyond centerfield. The width of home plate is pre-set, and a human operator uses a joystick to establish heights of the armpits and knees of each batter as the coordinates are fed into a computer.

Two additional cameras down each foul line are set up to capture pitch trajectory, or the path of the ball as it leaves the pitcher's hand until it crosses the plate. As the pitch is thrown, each camera captures over sixty ball positions per second. Background images are blacked out to prevent misleading positions. A computer uses algorithms to connect the dots and interpret the ball trajectory. However, the camera is not detecting depth, or distance, so the pitch trajectory from each camera is interpreted as a plane. The opposite camera does the same thing from a different angle (not on the same plane). Where the two planes intersect, the pitch line is formed.

The TV screen shows a graphic of the point at which the ball crosses the plate. That point in space is defined through triangulation. The strike zone is the third plane. When the line of the pitch trajectory intersects the strike zone plane, the pitch location in 3D is determined within accuracy of one centimeter. All this heavy duty math is done by four computers simultaneously.

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