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Updated: June 10th, 2014 2:59pm
Technology is here to improve baseball and the World Cup will make use

Technology is here to improve baseball and the World Cup will make use

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by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

The future of baseball is upon us.

It's not quite here yet, as in implemented in baseball. But technology that could eventually change the game of baseball is being implemented in ... soccer for this year's World Cup in Brazil.

This is the first World Cup for which goal-line technology will be used.

Fourteen cameras -- seven trained on each goalmouth -- have been hung up in all 12 World Cup stadiums, according to an Associate Press report. The cameras will record 500 images per second, and a computer will digest the frames. Within a second of a ball crossing the line, the referee's special watch will vibrate and flash "GOAL."

It's an intricate system designed by the German company, GoalControl, and will be used at the tournament. "This is the future," said Dirk Broichhausen, who heads GoalControl.

Imagine a system like this for baseball, whereby pitchers would be given every strike that nicks the corner of the strike zone. And every batter with a discerning eye would get credit for taking a ball off the plate, even if the pitcher hit the catcher's glove perfectly.

Many argue that umpires' disgression lends to the charm of the game. Humans are imperfect and we all can relish that fact. But this season's expansion of the replay review system suggests even Major League Baseball -- a league with deep-rooted traditional views -- is willing to improve the accuracy of umpiring crews. It happened only too late for Armando Galarraga. 

An electronic strike zone would vastly improve umpire accuracy. It would further improve the accuracy of literally the most important call made in any baseball game: the ball-strike call.

MLB still would need umpires, and they probably would still need one to stand behind the plate to rule on things like foul tips and catcher's interference. But instead of getting a high percentage of overall ball-strike calls correct -- while performing poorly on borderline pitches -- the calls that drive the game forward would be made with 100 percent accuracy.

Soccer is not merely dipping in its toes. It is diving in on technology that can help eliminate confusion or grey area on the sport's biggest stage

Johannes Holzmuller heads the FIFA program that helped implement the technology and suggested the cameras will help improve the sport.

"Most of the time the referee doesn't have the best vantage point for his decision -- goal or no goal," Holzmuller, in an Associated Press story about the technology. "The same applies for normal TV cameras."

He said the human eye could record only 16 "frames" per second, compared to the 500 frames per second of the high-speed cameras.

Different types of goal-line technology have already been used in club football, including the Hawk-Eye system in the Premier League this past season, according to the Associated Press report.

The cameras work, according to Holzmuller, even when players block several of its seven angles. And for conspiracy theorists, the report even debunks the notion that the system could be hacked by tech-savvy hooligans.

"This system is not able to be manipulated because the system is off-line," Broichhausen said in the report. "Off-line means no internet connection. There is no possibility to manipulate or disturb anything."

Here's more from the Associated Press report:

The system has tested perfectly so far. That does not mean it is perfectly accurate. Like most engineering projects, this one has a margin of error. It officially measures correctly within a plus-minus margin of 1.5 centimeters (½ inch), but Broichnausen suggested the real margin could be about 0.5 centimeters (less than ¼ inch).

"All of these 2,400 goal incident were correctly recognized by the system," Holzmuller said. "So yes, we can trust the system. We are sure it works 100 percent."

The designer of the system says 2,400 tests have been run in Brazil, without a mistake.

--

The Associated Press contributed to this column. 

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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