Major League Baseball has contracted QuesTec to install, operate, and maintain the UIS (Umpire Information System) in support of MLB's previously announced strike zone initiatives. The UIS uses QuesTec's proprietary measurement technology that analyzes video from cameras mounted in the rafters of each ballpark to precisely locate the ball throughout the pitch corridor. This information is then used to measure the speed, placement, and curvature of the pitch along its entire path. The UIS tracking system is a fully automated process that does not require changes to the ball, the field of play, or any other aspect of the game. Additional cameras are mounted at the field level to measure the strike zone for each individual batter, for each individual pitch, for each at bat. This information is compiled on a CD ROM disk and given to the home plate umpire immediately following each game.



How does it work?

The UIS uses QuesTec's proprietary measurement technology. Quite different than "video insertion" technology that simply adds graphics to the broadcast video, QuesTec technology actually measures information about interesting events during the game that would not be available any other way. This technology is so innovative it appeared in a Scientific American article in September of 2000. The ball tracking component uses cameras mounted in the stands off the first and third base lines to follow the ball as it leaves the pitcher's hand until it crosses the plate. Along the way, multiple track points are measured to precisely locate the ball in space and time. This information is then used to measure the speed, placement, and curvature of the pitch along its entire path. The entire process is fully automatic including detection of the start of the pitch, tracking of the ball, location computations, and identification of non-baseball objects such as birds or wind swept debris moving through the field of view. No changes are made to the ball, the field of play, or any other aspect of the game, to work with QuesTec technology. The tracking technology was originally developed for the US military and the company has adapted it to sports applications.

How accurate is it?

The UIS is accurate to within 0.5 inch (one half inch). 

How does the UIS system differ from the broadcast system PitchTrax?

The UIS uses different cameras, modified software, and a different calibration process to increase accuracy.

Why are they different?

The requirements for umpires and broadcast graphics are different. The extra cost and effort for the increased accuracy would be wasted when turned into the graphics we provide on air or over the internet.

What have you done over the internet?

Variations to this system have been used to produce pitch data for the online game "HIT THE PROS" located at "HIT THE PROS" allows you to swing at all the same pitches that the big leaguers did! In the past, we provided simultaneous webcast of pitch data for the 1999, 2000 and 2001 All Star Games and the 1999 World Series, all on the MLB official website.

How long has PitchTrax been available?

The PitchTrax product was first seen Nationally on air during the 1997 World Series. It has been used in various markets since then and appeared in hundreds of broadcasts on FOX SportsNet last season. We are in the process of installing it in all 30 MLB parks and hope to have that completed sometime this season.

Where and when will the UIS be in operation?

MLB will tell us where they would like the system installed. Four Major League parks were installed in 2001 and ten are scheduled for 2002.

How much are you being paid for this?

We are not at liberty to discuss that. MLB has provided for us to recover some of our costs for modifying the technology to fit their needs and they will be paying us to operate the systems for the duration of the agreement, which is five years.

Who owns the technology?

We have retained full ownership of the technology with certain practical limitations on any uses related to umpiring in baseball.

So, you can sell this technology to others?

Yes, as long as we don't interfere with the use of it for the legitimate purpose of providing information to the umpires.

How do the umpires feel about it?

In general, they support it! They had the opportunity to really watch the technology in action and to talk to us about how it works and how we thought it might be used. MLB has also worked very hard to clearly lay out why they wanted this technology and how they would use it. We wouldn't dare say everyone loves it at this point but, from what we have seen, the umpiring community as a whole agrees this information has a lot of potential value and they want to work with it to see what can be learned.

Why is this deal important to QuesTec?

Gaining acceptance from both MLB and the umpires for the accuracy, reliability and value of our technology is like getting a Seal of Approval. We are not aware of any other measurement technology that has been accepted in this way by the governing body of a major US sport, or, in fact, any sport worldwide. This is the first real advance since the stop watch and the tape measure. We are a measurement company and now an independent organization has agreed that our technology works and is willing to use it in a very important capacity. We think that is pretty important.