Posts with «sports & recreation» label

Major League Baseball wants to deploy strike zone robo-umpires in 2024

Major League Baseball will "likely" introduce an Automated Strike Zone System starting in 2024, commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN. The so-called robot umpires may call all balls and strikes then relay the information to a plate umpire, or be part of a replay review system that allows managers to challenge calls. "We have an automated strike zone system that works," Manfred said. 

The comments come in the wake of fan outrage over umpire's missed calls in recent games, including a brutal low strike error during a Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins tilt. "Enough is enough. Give me robo umps already," tweeted Grand Rapids ABC sports director Jamal Spencer. 

Enough is enough. Give me robo umps already

— Jamal Spencer (@JamalSpencerTV) May 31, 2022

MLB has been experimenting with robo umps in minor league Atlantic Triple-A league since 2019. It uses a doppler radar system developed by TrackMan, best known for its golf speed measurement devices. The system works thusly, according to CBS: "Pitch gets thrown, TrackMan tracks and identifies the pitch's location, phone tells umpire whether it's a ball or strike, umpire physically makes the call behind the plate." 

In fairness to umpires, calling balls and strikes with 100 MPH fastballs and hard-breaking curveballs caught outside the zone is no easy feat. But that's exactly why fans, pundits and the league itself thinks that machines should take the job, leaving the plate umpire to judge tags and other more subjective plays. Mechanical systems also made Atlantic league games mercifully shorter by a full nine minutes, according to MLB data. 

Under baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, the league has the right to change rules unilaterally, provided it gives the union a season's notice. Manfred already said that such a system wouldn't be brought in next year, as the new competition committee won't have its first meeting until 2023. Once it does meet, though, the committee is very likely to approve the changes since it's dominated by ownership, according to ESPN

Formula E's Gen3 car will make its race debut on January 14th

Formula E’s Gen3 all-electric car will make its race debut on January 14th, 2023 in Mexico City. The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) announced the date on Wednesday and shared the preliminary schedule for Formula E’s upcoming ninth season.

Before the official start of the competition in January, teams will have three days in December to test their new ride in Valencia, Spain. With today’s preliminary schedule, Formula E plans to host 18 races across 13 cities. That’s two more contests and three more stops than its 2022 slate. What’s more, for the first time, the Formula E circuit will visit Hyderabad in India and São Paulo, Brazil.

If you take a look at the schedule, you’ll notice a few gaps. Most notably, Formula E has yet to announce a New York City date. A spokesperson told Engadget the organization is working to organize races in South Africa and the US.

Formula E

"New York has been the home of Formula E in the USA since Season 3, with the exception of the Covid-hit Season 6 in 2020, and has delivered some epic races in front of full grandstands,” said Formula E chief championship officer Alberto Longo. “Major construction work in the Brooklyn area will make it a challenge to use the current track layout next year which is why we have not announced a specific date on the provisional Season 9 calendar. However, we will continue to work closely with our local partners in Brooklyn to explore solutions for racing in New York next season.”

Next year’s racing debut of the Gen3 is exciting for a couple of reasons. Not only is the car faster than its predecessor, but Formula E also designed it to be more agile. That’s something that should lead to more wheel-to-wheel dueling between drivers, and make the resulting races more entertaining.

Niantic is making an augmented reality basketball game with the NBA

Pokémon Go developer Niantic is creating a new augmented reality mobile game with more big-name partners: the NBA and its players' association. NBA All-World will task you with exploring your neighborhood to find some of the league's stars such as Chris Paul, Steph Curry and James Harden. You can challenge and compete against virtual players in mini-games like three-point contests before recruiting them to your team.

NBA All-World players will be able to deck out their NBA stars in custom apparel. Polygon notes that you can also improve your squad with items you find out in the wild at places such as sporting goods stores and convenience stores. You'll have the chance to battle others in one-on-one matches with swipe-based commands too. These encounters will be available at various locations, including real-life basketball courts.

Following Pokémon Go and Pikmin Bloom, Niantic has a few other games in the works. Transformers: Heavy Metal is in beta, but it's only available in a few countries for now. The same goes for Peridot, a modern AR take on Tamagotchi.

It's not yet clear exactly when Niantic will release NBA All-World, but the game will soon enter a soft launch period. You can sign up for updates if you're interested.

Paralyzed race driver completes Goodwood hill climb using head movement to steer

Former Indy Racing League competitor Sam Schmidt is continuing to break new ground for accessible driving technology. The Arrow McLaren SP team co-owner has completed the signature hill climb at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed using head movements and his breath to steer — the first time anyone has demonstrated the feature at the UK event. Schmidt drove a McLaren 720S Spider modified by Arrow Electronics to track his head using infrared cameras. He controlled acceleration and braking by inhaling and exhaling through a "sip-and-puff" device. The racer also wore a semi-autonomous exoskeleton concept, the SAM Suit, that helps him walk.

Schmidt became quadriplegic in 2000 when he injured his spinal cord in a practice lap crash. He has long been an advocate for paralysis treatment, and in 2014 partnered with Arrow to drive a Corvette using a combination of head tracking, sip-and-puff and voice controls. In 2016, became the first American with a license to use an autonomous vehicle on highways, using a Corvette to drive in Nevada.

While alternative mobility solutions can return some level of autonomy to those no longer able to operate a vehicle for one reason or another, it's not entirely clear what role Arrow's technology might play in the future. We've reached out to the company for details on where it sees projects like the SAM heading. Arrow will also be racing against self-driving tech, which is becoming closer to a practical reality, with Level 3 autonomy already reaching public roads. With that said, completely driverless cars (Level 5 autonomy) will take years to arrive.

How to watch the Summer Games Done Quick 2022 speedrunning marathon

The 2022 edition of Summer Games Done Quick, the semi-annual speedrunning event, gets underway on June 26th. From then until July 3rd, SGDQ will host a non-stop livestream of skilled players tearing through a wide variety of games as fast as they can. Hopefully, they'll set a few world records in the process.

You can watch the event live on Twitch — the stream is embedded below for your convenience. The pre-show gets underway at 12:30PM ET on Sunday, followed by the first run, a Shadow of the Colossus random boss rush. If you miss anything, you'll be able to catch up on YouTube later.

As ever, viewers will be encouraged to donate to Doctors Without Borders. Last year's event raised $2.9 million for the cause. The most recent winter edition, Awesome Games Done Quick, raised $3.4 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. SGDQ 2022 takes place in Bloomington, Minnesota and it's the first in-person GDQ event since Awesome Games Done Quick 2020.

GDQ has released the full schedule, and there are a bunch of intriguing runs in the pipeline. I haven't seen a reverse boss run of Donkey Kong Country before. I'm looking forward to that, as well as the Super Mario Maker 2 relay race. Among the games making their debut at a core GDQ event are Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Halo Infinite, Tunic and, inevitably, Elden Ring.

Take a first look at Formula E’s new Gen3 car in action

Formula E recently showed off its latest Gen3 car that it says is faster, more agile and "the world's most efficient" racing vehicle to date. Now, we're getting a first look at one on a track at England's Goodwood in the form of the Mahinda M9 Electro with Nick Heidfeld at the wheel. 

On its Twitter account, Goodwood said that Heidfeld was "not holding back" and it looked like the car made a clean lap other than a few minor lockups. On track, the Gen3 design certainly looks more subdued and less dramatic than the Gen2, but it's lighter (840kg compared to 920kg including driver) and quicker in every way.

Here’s the first glimpse of the @FIAFormulaE Gen 3 car. The @MahindraRacing Gen 3 car has @NickHeidfeld at the wheel and he’s not holding back. What do you think of the new design?

— Goodwood FOS (@fosgoodwood) June 23, 2022

The Gen3 model is very specifically designed for street circuit racing with high maneuverability and speeds up to 200 MPH. That's not quite as fast as the 220-230 MPH top speeds for F1 cars, but the Formula E vehicles do that with less than half the power. They're also highly efficient, with over double the regenerative braking capabilities of the Gen2 cars. Overall, they convert 90 percent of battery energy to mechanical power, compared to 52 percent for F1 cars. 

There are now 11 Gen3 teams confirmed with 22 cars, including DS Automobiles, Dragon/Penske, Envision, Mercedes-EQ, Avalanche Andretti, Jaguar, Maserati, NIO 333, Nissan and Porsche, along with Mahindra. The first season of Gen3 will kick off this winter with pre-season testing. 

The best bike accessories you can buy

Like a lot of people, I only recently began cycling. After more than a decade of not riding a bike, I bought my first one as an adult at the start of the pandemic and immediately fell in love with what it had to offer. Cycling was my escape from a world that didn’t make sense anymore. It has since become the primary way I stay fit, unwind after a long day and get to where I need to go.

Along the way, I’ve tried many different cycling gadgets. The entries in the list below represent some of my favorites. Outside of essentials like a helmet, multitool and spare inner tubes, you don’t need most of the items listed below to enjoy whatever time you spend on your bike or e-bike, but some will keep you safer or make it easier to achieve your fitness goals – if that’s what you want to get out of the hobby.

Knog Rear Plus Light


Cycling frequently involves sharing the road with cars, and one of the best ways to stay safe is by making yourself as visible as possible to drivers. One way to do that is with a seat post-mounted LED light. You have a lot of options when it comes to cycling lights, but one of the best in my experience is the affordable Rear Plus from Knog.

You’ll notice the Rear Plus is one of two products from Knog on this list. The reason for that is that the company makes cycling accessories that stand out for their usability and clever design. With the Rear Plus, for instance, you plug it into your computer like a USB thumb drive whenever you need to charge it, meaning you don’t need to deal with a micro-USB cable like with many other bicycle lights. What’s more, Knog claims you can get up to 40 hours of battery life from the device depending on the lighting mode you use. And since it’s so easy to charge, you’re much less likely to find yourself in a situation where you don’t have a light when the sun is about to set.

If you’re willing to spend more, an even safer option is to buy a rearview radar like the $200 Garmin Varia RTL515. In addition to being a light, it pairs with your smartphone or bike computer, with models from both Garmin and Wahoo supported, to provide visual, audible and haptic alerts when cars are approaching you. It can detect a vehicle up to 150 meters away and will more urgently warn you if one is approaching quickly. It’s not a replacement for checking your blind spots, but it will take away much of the stress involved with road cycling.

Buy Knog Rear Plus Light at Amazon - $18Buy Garmin Varia RTL515 at Amazon - $200

Knog Oi Bike Bell

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

After an LED light, you’ll want to make sure you have a bell installed on your bicycle. I know what you’re thinking: can’t you just warn people when you’re about to ride past them. The answer is yes, but they probably won’t hear you or react quickly, especially if they’re talking to someone at the time. You’ll be surprised how much more effective a bell is at communicating with pedestrians than your voice. I find one is also invaluable when you’re faced with a driver waiting to make a turn.

For an “aero” option that won’t look out of place on a carbon road bike, consider the Knog Oi Luxe. It’s easy to install and features a slick design that won’t clutter your cockpit. For something with more classic styling, look to the Spurcycle Original Bell. Both produce distinct sounds that cut through traffic and other noises.

Buy Knog Oi Bike Bell at Amazon starting at $17

Ornot Handlebar Bag Mini


There’s a good chance you’ll want to carry your phone and other belongings with you when you set out on your cycling adventures, and that’s where a handlebar bag can come in handy. The amount of choice here is endless, with nearly every major cycling brand offering at least a few different models.

Another option is to support a local company in your area. On that front, there have never been more independent bagmakers than there at this moment. In the US alone, you have companies like Swift Industries, PS Bagworks and Roadrunner Bags making thoughtful and durable cycling bags of all shapes and sizes. Seriously, a quick Google search and you’re bound to find someone sewing cycling bags in your local area. And if all you want is a foolproof recommendation, consider the Handlebar Bag Mini from Ornot. It’s the perfect size for carrying a phone, sunglasses and a few snacks, and like all of the company’s products, the quality of materials and craftsmanship is second to none.

Buy Handlebar Bag Mini at Ornot - $44

Kryptonite Kryptolok


At some point, you’ll need to leave your bike in a place where you can’t keep a constant eye on it. Since 2020, I’ve used a Kryptonite Kryptolok to lock my bike up, and so far it has yet to be stolen (knock on wood). A lot of people swear by Kryptonite locks and I like the one I bought for its no-fuss key mechanism. It also comes with a holder you can mount to one of your bike’s bottle cage mounts.

Buy Kryptonite Kryptolok at Amazon - $64

Strava Subscription

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Even if you only consider yourself a casual cyclist, you should use an app like Strava to record your rides. Like with any activity, it can be easy to get discouraged with cycling, particularly if you finish a ride where you feel like things didn’t go your way. But here’s the thing, you’re getting better whether you realize it or not.

When I first started cycling in the summer of 2020, I was averaging a speed of about 15km per hour. I can now do about 23km per hour. I know that because I have a record of nearly every ride I’ve gone on since I bought my first bike at the start of the pandemic. And it’s all thanks to Strava.

The best part of the app is that you don’t need to pay for its annual $60 premium subscription to get access to some of its best features. Recording your rides is free, and the company recently made its Beacon feature, which can automatically notify your loved ones of your location, available to all smartphone users. In my view, it’s worthwhile upgrading to Strava’s premium tier if you think you’ll get value out of its route-building tool. It uses the company’s data to generate routes in your nearby vicinity, and I find it’s a good way to add some variety to your rides.

Subscribe to Strava - $60/year

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt V2


In your phone, you already own one of the most useful cycling accessories you can buy. Not only can it point you in the right direction when you get lost but you can also use it with apps like Strava to track your rides. In those instances, it can be useful to have easy access to your phone when you’re on the saddle. That’s where a handlebar phone mount can be invaluable.

One of the most secure options I’ve tried is made by Quad Lock. The company’s system involves a case made specifically for your make of phone and a dual-stage locking mechanism that ensures both case and device stay firmly affixed to your bike. They also offer both stem and out front mounts, with the option to orient your phone horizontally – making it a great fit for Zwift.

Another option is to buy a dedicated bike computer such as the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. The Bolt offers turn-by-turn navigation and an interface that’s purpose-built for cycling. That means the inclusion of tactile buttons that make it possible to interact with the device by feel alone, even when you’re wearing cycling gloves. Plus, a $300 bike computer is a lot more affordable to replace than a high-end smartphone if you end up in a crash. Just make sure you go for the V2 version. Wahoo recently updated the Bolt to add USB-C charging and a color screen.

Buy Element Bolt V2 at Amazon - $300

Garmin Rally Pedals


If you already own some variation of everything else on this list, then you’re probably at the point where you’re considering a power meter so you have a more consistent way of measuring your fitness gains.

To be clear, the majority of people, even those for whom cycling is their primary form of exercise, don’t need a power meter. But if you’re absolutely set on buying one, Garmin makes one of the best options. The company’s Rally pedals offer several advantages over other models. They’re much easier to install than power meters that replace either your bottom bracket or crankarms. All you need is a pedal wrench. Additionally, with Garmin offering the Rally pedals in Shimano SPD, SPD-SL and Look Keo versions, there’s a good chance you won’t have to replace your existing clipless cleats to use them. Garmin also offers a conversion kit that allows you to use the spindle mechanism across multiple bikes. With a price tag that starts at $649, they are expensive, but also one of the most versatile options on the market.

Buy Rally pedals at Garmin starting at $649

Uber to bring back shared rides to nine US cities this summer

Uber suspended its shared rides service — Uber Pool — in the early months of the pandemic as a safety measure. But the company has now relaunched the feature under a new name, UberX Share, which is available starting today in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Diego, Portland, Oregon, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. This formal launch follows a quieter debut back in November, when it was available only in Miami as part of a pilot test.

The new shared rides feature is similar to Uber’s pre-pandemic carpooling feature, but with an added cash incentive. Riders who select UberX Share will be matched with another co-rider who is headed in the same direction. In exchange for the hassle and extra time spent on the road, Uber will give riders up to a 20 percent discount on the total fare and $2 in Uber Cash, according to a guide on Uber's website. Even if riders don’t get matched with a co-rider, they’ll receive a 5 percent up-front discount on their ride.

One downside of Uber’s carpool service in the past was that co-riders could end up taking a much longer trip than they expected. The company claims it has updated the service to make sure that UberX Share rides are no more than eight minutes longer than an equivalent solo ride.

UberX Share is likely to be appealing for budget-conscious riders, especially if it’s a short or non-urgent trip. But the feature posed problems for drivers in the past, who reportedly earned less per passenger on shared rides than they made transporting individual passengers. Drivers also have to do the added work of coordinating multiple drop-offs and pick-offs per trip. 

The company, for its part, has made several changes this time around that may be more driver friendly. Passengers can only request UberX Share rides for themselves, and only one other co-rider can join per trip. Uber Pool gave riders the option of booking up to two seats, and during very busy times could match drivers with more than one co-rider. The new changes will likely create a less hectic shared ride experience for everyone.

'Overwatch 2' won't have loot boxes

Overwatch 2 will get rid of one of the first game's most infamous elements. Blizzard has confirmed at a reveal event that that the new team-based shooter won't have loot boxes when it premieres October 4th. Instead, you'll get the items you want through either a Battle Pass or a "consistently updated" in-game store. You won't have to roll the dice wondering if you'll get a special character skin or emote.

Blizzard also used the event to show what you can expect for the first two seasons. The developer will provide free updates every nine weeks to keep things fresh, with progression applying across game platforms. The first season will include three new heroes (Sojourn, Junker Queen and an unidentified third), six more maps, 30-plus extra skins and a new game mode. The second season, kicking off December 6th, will add a new take hero, another map and still more cosmetics. In 2023, you can expect a new "PvE experience" that advances the story.

The approach to loot boxes is a relative about-face. The company has kept the random boxes in Overwatch ever since launch, and has been defensive. Blizzard even refused to release Diablo Immortal in Belgium and the Netherlands due to those countries' laws banning loot box mechanics as a form of gambling. With Overwatch 2, the team is acknowledging the backlash.

There might not have been much choice. Overwatch has maintained a largely steady player count and even grown slightly over the years, with data indicating an average of 7.2 million players per month as of May. However, it's no secret that some players hate loot boxes and might be wary of playing the new game if they persist. As it stands, US agencies like the Federal Trade Commission have investigated loot box systems in the past. Whatever the motivations for scrapping the boxes, the decision could help Blizzard avoid legal trouble in its home country.

Ferrari says 60 percent of its lineup will be electrified by 2026

Ferrari has announced at an investor presentation that it will 60 percent electrified by 2026, including the EV it promised last year. At that point, 40 percent of its cars will be combustion and 60 percent will be either hybrid or all electric. The eventual aim is to become carbon neutral by 2030, but even then, it will continue to develop internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. 

By 2026, Ferrari will offer "three powertrains with distinctive driving emotions," it said. It'll borrow hybrid powertrain tech from its F1 and other racing experience, while its electric engines will be "designed, handcrafted and assembled in Maranello to ensure a unique driving experience also derived from racing solutions."

Ferrari unveiled its first production plug-in hybrid, the SF90 Stradale, back in 2019. It now has four separate model lineups with the Stradale and 296 GTB plug-in V6 hybrid, along with the pure ICE 812 Superfast V12 and Roma V8 models. So in effect, half its lineup is already electrified, as Autocar points out. That mix will soon change, though. The luxury automaker also confirmed that it's much-anticipated Purosangue SUV will arrive in September as a pure ICE vehicle, to start with. 

As for the EV set to arrive in 2025, Ferrari is aiming to have "strong commonalities" with its current combustion engines. "The first electric Ferrari will be rooted in our racing heritage and will draw from a broader technical reservoir while preserving all its authenticity and consistency," said CEO Benedetto Vigna, adding that it will be "really unique from many different points of view." 

The batteries will also be assembled by Ferrari in Maranello in dedicated e-building facility "where electric engines, inverters, and batteries will be designed, handcrafted and assembled," the company said. It also revealed that it would limit self-driving autonomy to "Level 2/2+" and that "connectivity is first and foremost provided to enhance the ownership experience and the relationship with the client."