A technology used on glowing T-Shirts worn by ravers at dance parties has been adapted by a University of Sydney honours student to create basketball jerseys that light up to display players' points, fouls and other real time game information.
Mitchell Page, a student in the bachelor of design computing degree, said he came up with the idea while he was playing computer sports games, where icons of virtual "players" are linked on the screen to their scores. He also drew inspiration from the graphics used on-screen in sports broadcasts.
With his supervisor Dr Andrew Vande Moere, Page said he developed the jersey prototypes for basketballers because of the "relatively fast scoring, information-rich," nature of the game. Page said it also helped that basketball is a relatively "low contact sport that doesn't occur over a massive field."
The jerseys are fitted with flexible panels that are linked by electricity-carrying cotton threads to strap-on computers. Wireless technology connects the jerseys to a computerised scoring system, where a score keeper still enters information manually.
Game information feeds back to the jerseys, where panels on the side light up to indicate the number of points a player has made. Panels on the chest can be programmed to light up when a pre-determined amount of time is left in a game, while back panels light up to show the winning side.
In Page's initial research with volunteer athletes, he discovered the design needed to be subtle and intuitive and easy-to-understand. "The players we tested it on said they almost wanted something they could perceive out of their peripheral vision."
Early tests of the jerseys received positive responses from players, spectators, referees and coaches. After wearing the prototypes, Mitchell said some players commented that they felt their game improved because they could sense what was happening straight away.
According to Page, after a test game one player said: "I passed to her because she had more points and the game was about the end". Another said "I saw my time display [was lit up] and I really picked up my game". The jerseys also "gave players motivation to continue their winning streaks", Page says.
Spectators - especially those new to the sport - said the shirts increased their understanding of the game, while coaches and referees said the shirts meant they needed to consult the benches and score boards less frequently.
Page said the shirts have the potential to be used in other sports, and could also benefit players with hearing or mobility disabilities. He also sees potential for the technology to be used in other fields, such as orchestra conducting or debating, or in emergency services situations, where teams need to communicate in chaotic, noisy atmospheres.
Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.