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4 Ways 3D Technology Is Changing Sports

Sports is a new frontier for better technology. In the United States alone, the four major sports — football, basketball, baseball and hockey — bring in billions of dollars in revenue each year. This money comes from ticket sales, advertising and TV network contracts. To keep that revenue moving forward, sports team owners and league organizers are constantly looking for ways technology can bring a better experience to both athletes and fans.

In particular, 3D technology has changed almost everything we know about sports. From equipment and medicine to broadcasting, we should thank 3D tech for almost every way we enjoy our favorite sports today.

Depositphotos 55371049 s 2015 320px

Additive Manufacturing

More commonly known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing is the process of using synthetic materials to automatically construct nearly any shape the human brain can imagine. The process gets its nickname because the machines look like desktop printers on steroids. They even move like printers as they create objects from seemingly nothing.

There are hundreds of uses for additive manufacturing, but sports manufacturing is making an impact with customized 3D printed equipment for athletes. Professional runner Jack Bolas was the first to wear 3D printed shoes at last year's New Balance Games in New York. New Balance now uses additive manufacturing to create customized insoles for professional athletes.

Broadcasting

Some of the most routine luxuries in sports broadcasting today are thanks to 3D technology. The yellow first-down line in televised NFL games was a technical marvel when it first debuted in 1998. Now, special 3D cameras record games and send them to stereoscopic 3D televisions to give viewers the most immersive experience ever.

It isn't just football either. Major league baseball can now track pitches and the strike zone in real time, something we left only to the home plate umpire for more than a century. The NHL also used a digital blue tail to track the puck on the ice, but that quickly disappeared after fan complaints. Some things are better left old school.

Sports Medicine

The way we diagnose and treat sports injuries has completely changed because of 3D technology. We used to rely on X-rays and MRIs to see what was going on inside an athlete's muscles and joints, but now 3D imaging gives doctors more insight into how injuries occur and better ways to treat them.

On the other side of the knife, 3D technology is helping doctors create the materials needed to help athletes recover from injuries after surgery (back to additive manufacturing). In the recent comedy "Trainwreck," Bill Hader plays a prominent sports physician who performs a first-of-its-kind knee replacement surgery on NBA star Amare Stoudemire. While the movie is fictional, procedures like the ones from Hader's character are not. Doctors can now print 3D bones and cartilage pieces to replace damaged ones after an injury.

Video Games

Few will argue that video games count as real sports, but the popularity in gaming competition, otherwise known as e-sports, would argue otherwise. According to a 2014 study bySuper Data Research and Newzoo, more than 70 million people watch e-sports around the world, making it more popular than some of the biggest sports in the United States.

Virtual reality headsets, like the Oculus Rift, are giving gamers an experience like never before by completely engulfing their sight and sound to other worlds. This means that e-sports and sports simulators, like Madden or FIFA, can be enjoyed more realistically through virtual reality.

Author : Jim Burch, SocialMonsters.