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Now Calling Balls and Strikes: Robot Umpires

An anonymous reader shares a report: Baseball’s future has arrived in the Atlantic League, a collection of eight independent professional teams that span from New Britain, Conn., to Sugar Land, Texas. Last week marked the introduction of the most significant innovation: an automated strike zone, shifting responsibility for calling balls and strikes from a person to an emotionless piece of technology free of the biases and inconsistencies of mere humans. And if the test goes well, the days of big-league players imploring umps to schedule an eye exam could soon come to an end.

Ducks manager Wally Backman predicted that MLB will adopt the system within five years. “It’s going to happen,” he said. “There have been a few pitches that are questionable, but not as many as if it was a human. The machine is definitely going to be more right than they are.” Every Atlantic League stadium, including the Patriots’ TD Bank Ballpark in Central New Jersey, now features a TrackMan device perched high above the plate. It uses 3-D Doppler radar to register balls and strikes and relays its “decision” through a secure Wi-Fi network to the umpire, equipped with an iPhone in his pocket connected to a wired earbud. That umpire, positioned behind the plate as normal, hears a man’s voice saying “ball” or “strike” and then signals the verdict.


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