GeekWire.com and Microsoft Talk Sports Technology

GeekWire.com (http://www.geekwire.com) is a Seattle-based Web site and is quite well-known in the Pacific Northwest. The site posts all kinds of interesting, tech-related stories. I had read a few sports-tech related articles written by a GeekWire.com reporter, Taylor Soper. So, last week Tuesday, I cold-called Taylor and asked him if he’d be willing to come to Microsoft Research in Redmond and give a talk about what he has seen recently.

Taylor returned my call a few minutes later, and about five minutes after that, agreed to speak on Thursday. I really like dealing with people who make quick decisions, as opposed to people who’ll plan to have a meeting to plan another meeting to create a plan on what to do. (If you think I’m exaggerating, try working for a huge company sometime).

Anyway, Taylor came out to Microsoft on Thursday morning. My work buddy Bryan and I acted as hosts and introduced Taylor. His presentation was titled “The State of Sports Tech 2017” and it was excellent. To be honest, I always get a bit nervous when sponsoring a speaker I haven’t heard talk before — it’s very difficult to deliver a talk that’s both informative and interesting, but Taylor did both (to my relief).

I mention this because some of the absolute worst talks I’ve heard have been given by researchers to a non-research audience. One of the keys to a good talk is understanding exactly who your audience is. I know of one research department in a very large tech company, where the researchers were essentially black-balled from being selected to speak at their own company’s events with a non-research audience because previous talks by the researchers had been so incredibly bad (meaning the talks would have been perfect for fellow researchers, but were terrible for non-researchers).

Moving on. Taylor talked about all kinds of interesting things he’s seen lately. I was particularly interested in some of the work that’s going on related to what Taylor called “the fan experience”. Imagine watching a basketball game from an NBA basketball player’s point of view. Imagine watching an NFL football game or a soccer game where all kinds of statistical information about a player is displayed in real-time, next to the player.

Interestingly, I felt that some of the potential technologies might have a negative impact. For example, it’s technically possible to replace a baseball home plate umpire with a computer system that calls balls and strikes. Ugh! I’d hate that. I like the human-ness of sports and human error is an important and fascinating part of any sport, in my mind anyway.

Taylor wrapped up his talk by briefly describing an upcoming event that would be sponsored by GeekWire.com, the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit. See https://www.geekwire.com/events/geekwire-sports-tech-summit-2017/. The event is June 21-22, 2017 and I wish I could go but I made a speaking commitment elsewhere. Dang. But I’ll try to attend next year.

Taylor can be reached at taylor@geekwire.com — if you’re reading this post on or before June 20, and you want to attend the 2017 Sports Tech Summit, if you contact Taylor, I’ll bet he could wrangle a nice discount off the regular price for you.

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