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ICC brings drones, smart bats and virtual reality to international cricket

International Cricket Council teams up with Intel to transform the cricketing experience for fans and players with drones, smart connected bats and virtual reality

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has set out to digitise the world of cricket after selecting Intel to roll out drone technology, connected cricket bats and virtual reality at the 2017 Champions Trophy one-day international (ODI) series.

Intel’s technology will be deployed at the three Champions Trophy host grounds – the Oval in London, Edgbaston in Birmingham, and Sophia Gardens in Cardiff.

The aim of the project is to demonstrate how innovative technology can improve the experience of watching cricket matches and keep fans engaged with what is going on on the pitch by giving them access to more statistical data.

“We love the fact that cricket is a numbers game, a 360-degree sport with angles and speed and strike and run rates that lends itself to using statistics and figures in storytelling,” said Anuj Dua, director of marketing for Intel’s New Technology Group.

ICC CEO and former South African international Dave Richardson added: “Our long-term ambition is to make cricket the world’s favourite sport and one way to do this is to offer fans premium content, and by embracing technology.”

The first element of the ICC’s bespoke smart cricket technology will comprise Intel Falcon 8 drones equipped with high-definition, infrared cameras that will be used to conduct advanced pitch analysis before each match.

By overflying the pitch, the drones will generate rich visual data on grass cover, health and even pitch topology, which will be used to generate daily reports for use in live broadcasts.

Meanwhile, Intel has developed a bat sensor tool – a clip-on module powered by its Curie technology – that is mounted on the handle of the cricket bat to track and generate data on each stroke played by the batsman. The sensor gathers data on parameters such as backlift, bat speed, impact angles and follow-through angles.

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To support this, Intel and the ICC have implemented a private ultra-wideband network – alongside the stadium Wi-Fi – to stream the data back to the match broadcasters, who can then make the statistics instantly available to TV viewers around the world.

The final piece of the package will be a virtual reality (VR) showcase at the matches, which will use head-mounted displays to immerse fans in a virtual cricket match and let them test their batting skills against a virtual bowler using the Curie-powered smart bat.

But both the ICC and Intel also see value beyond merely entertainment, and data gathered from the drones and the connected bats will also be made available to the teams and players to help them make strategic decisions ahead of, and during, the matches.

Intel has also engaged Speculur, a manufacturer of wearable devices, to commercialise the bat sensor technology into a product called BatSense, which it hopes will help junior players improve their game.

Ex-England captain and Sky Sports commentator Nasser Hussain, who now also coaches junior cricket, said he hoped BatSense could become an “absolutely vital” coaching tool in time.

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