Middletown, RI —The marriage of technology and professional sports hasn't always been a happy one. Remember the glowing hockey puck that changed colors during a slap shot?
Now a Rhode Island company is helping to create another innovation—the glowing yellow line to mark the first-down chains in football games.
The strange line appears to have been painted, not projected, onto the field—since it does not overlap players' bodies as they pass over it—thus sparking countless barroom discussions of "How do they do that?"
The answer is FOG—that's a Fiber Optic Gyro—from KVH Industries. Sportvision Inc. (New York, NY), the company that created the 1st & Ten™system, chose FOG sensors to counteract the effect of camera vibrations caused by wind or photographers. During a game, the sensors monitor camera wiggles 100 times per second and feed the information to a computer, which calculates how to make the line appear stationary.
There are actually three FOGs on each camera—one for each axis of motion—says Jim Dodez, VP at KVH. They work by measuring the angular rotation around an axis perpendicular to a coil of optical fiber, so they have no cross-axis sensitivity. Each has accuracy of±0.002 degree, which is good enough to make the line look steady on television even when KVH testers are dropping a camera's tripod legs from six inches, Dodez says.