Future Friday: Smart Glasses and ‘Super Refs’

Tomorrow’s refs could sport smart glasses

The most difficult position in sports doesn’t belong to baseball’s pitcher, football’s quarterback or soccer and hockey’s goaltender. It belongs to the ref. An often thankless position, referees are tasked with upholding the laws of their respective game.

READ: Smart Glasses could Save Lives with AR First Aid

Donning a whistle, the best of these recreational sheriffs are comfortable under pressure. They need to be. No matter the call, no matter the league, they can expect to hear an earful from a displeased coach or impassioned beer-leaguer.

Smart glasses could one day protect referees from the ire of coaches and players. Credit: SB Nation

Especially at the professional level, reffing mistakes take on a massive spotlight. Inevitably, this spotlight and increased attention produces even more missed calls.

Technology’s role in officiating the pros

To limit these errors, several pro leagues have introduced corrective technologies. FIFA has introduced the VAR (Video Assistant Referee), which allows an off-field team of officials to assist those who stand face-to-face with the world’s best players.

Meanwhile, pro tennis allows players to challenge calls – but limits the amount of times a player can challenge each game. Much like the NHL’s Coach’s Challenge, these involve gambling elements, where teams are penalized in some way if challenges don’t go their way.

While most leagues have been slow to integrate modern technology into officiating, recent developments suggest this will start to happen more often. As a result, it’s not so far-fetched to think that smart glasses could soon help refs make the right call.

Innovations like goal line technology have been integrated by pro sports leagues. How long before smart glasses follow? Credit: Absolute Geeks

A clearer view of the game with augmented reality (AR)

Smart glasses would make a ref’s life much easier through countless innovations. For starters, the lenses could highlight illegal points-of-contact between players. Especially in lightning-fast games like football and ice hockey, no hit to the head would go unnoticed.

Additionally, smart glasses could instantly let a linesman know when to blow a play dead. Say goodbye to missed offsides and blown too-many-men calls.

Furthermore, replays could instantly be viewed by those responsible for making the final call. Instead of gathering with their fellow officials and talking about what each ref thought they saw, the play in question would be collectively watched.

We’ll see how long it takes for pro sports to entertain the introduction of smart glasses to an official’s toolkit. For now, watch the missed calls and frustration among players, management and fans pileup.

As always, those in power will look to technology to provide a solution.

A Disclaimer Note from the Author: On Fridays we often let our imagination run wild at Vuzix. With our ‘Future Friday’ segment, we explore the endless possibilities offered by smart glasses. We encourage you to provide your feedback as your input will help us make these dreams a reality.