WNBA Debuts Ref Cam

Somewhere in Mountain View, California, someone at Google is already drooling at the opportunity to get their technology into sports, or their pissed that Broadcast Sports Inc. beat them to the punch with the WNBA Ref Cam. (It would surprise me not one bit if there was a patent suit in the very near future because of this.)

During a game on Saturday between the Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever, WNBA official Lamont Simpson wore a glasses-looking device that had a camera mounted above the right ear—incredible similar to how Google’s Glass device looks—and caught some amazing images during the game, including his T-ing up of Candice Dupree.

“It was fun,” Simpspon told WNBA.com. “We made some adjustments at halftime and the second half it was almost like it wasn’t there.”

WNBA President Laurel Richie said the technology adds a unique perspective those [few bored individuals with enough time on their hands] watching WNBA games, and offered the league the opportunity to be at the forefront of some incredible technological advances in sports.

Broadcast Sports Inc.’s general manager, Peter Larsson shared more about the project.

“We were working on onboard cameras for NASCAR and also with the X-Games and married the two of them together to come up with the perfect size for referees.”

Larsson said they had a number of different options for officials ranging from a hat to a strap that fits around the head like a headband. They finally settled on the glasses which didn’t have lenses, but seemed like the best option for a basketball official.

“It was good,” he said of the debut. “The whole concept is to get the viewer down on the court, get them as close as you can. Technology isn’t there to get the size down to put it on the player. So this was the next best bet.”

Larsson said that the camera has also been used in a European rugby game as well as an MLS reserve league contest. It might be a while before they can have it ready for a sport like baseball or football.

“We’re another generation or two away,” he said. “That’s on our developmental road map.”

The lack of mention about inspiration from Google Glass is what makes me think there’ll be some patent discussions any moment now, and why ESPN has yet to commit to continue using the Ref Cam. The thing looked entirely too clunky compared to what I’ve seen of Glass thus far.

Still, the idea of getting access to images from on-court/on-field is incredible.

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