Umpire Information System (UIS)

About the technology

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 are the systems different?

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?

We provided simultaneous webcast of pitch data for the 1999 and 2000 All Star Games and the 1999 World Series, all on the MLB website.

How long has PitchTrax been available?

The PitchTrax product was first seen 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. We will be doing additional testing in Arizona during Spring Training and hope to put the first system into operational use around Opening Day. The first system will be used to work out any remaining system issues and we will then roll out the additional systems as soon as we can. We hope to have six systems in operation by the All Star Break but we will see how it goes. It is more important to get this done right than get it done quickly.

About the Deal

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. I 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.

About QuesTec

What else is QuesTec working on?

Our Tennis ProView product was seen in 190 countries last year as part of 7 week-long Masters Series broadcasts including the World Championships in Lisbon. Video clips of our product also were featured on the Masters Series web site. This is just one example of the potential for multiple uses of essentially the same content created by our technology.

We also have a Golf product that computes the ideal putt path for any lie on the green. That product has been used in several PGA events.

We are currently working on products for a number of sports, as well as branching out beyond tracking balls to tracking people and measuring other aspects of the sports we work in.

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