Archive for October, 2014

Still Need a Costume Idea? How About a Mask of the Messed Up NBA2K Facial Scans?

The folks at Polygon pointed out a nice Halloween treat provided by the folks at NBA2K. The hubbub around some of the terrible and sometimes frightening attempts at grafting one’s face onto an NBA 2K15 player is still palpable with some, and 2K Sports is attempting to take it in stride. In an effort to poke fun at themselves (or at least look like they are), the studio has released a Halloween mask making kit featuring eight of the more terrifying facial scan blunders.


All you need is a color printer and some string (or poster board and a Popsicle stick) and you’re set to scare the daylights out of some people this weekend.

2K Sports also releases a video on how to get your own terrible facial scan. It seems like it’s meant in good fun, but it also kind of insults people who had legitimate problems with the game’s feature.

Still, if you want to go to a Halloween party dressed as an inside joke to end all inside jokes, these masks might be your ticket. You could even get seven friends (or more if you want to double up masks) to join you and have your own impromptu Pickup Game of Horror.

Review: Gametime’s Ticket Purchasing Via Mobile

Purchasing tickets online is nothing new, but Gametime has made the process even easier when buying from your mobile — Android or iOS only — device. The company has just update their free mobile app and now rather than refreshing a page again and again, the app now has a “pull to refresh” email style option. It’s a small change that goes a long way in terms of convenience.

Not only is it easier to search for tickets with the pull to refresh option, Gametime now shows exactly where you’ll be sitting. With a birds eye view of the stadium or a field view, you know if you’ll be up in the nosebleeds or right on the sideline.


The field view gives the section, row and seat while showing what the field/court/rink will look like from the seats you’re interested in.


The app allows purchasing up to 20 tickets per transaction and is within one second of real time availability. In an interview with VentureBeat, Chief Executive of Gametime Brad Griffith said of the updated ticket availability:

“We shifted to a video game style technology that can be immediately updated…It’s like playing a video game with another player. You have to keep it synchronized or it’s not a good experience.

Gametime currently works in 22 different cities and 60 venues. With app you can purchase tickets to NFL, MLB, NCAAF, MLS, NBA and NHL games. One downside is you’ll need a credit/debit card on file, as neither Paypal nor Venmo is currently a pay option.

Another curious quirk was the start times of certain games is wrong. After selecting Detroit as my city, it showed the Lions are playing at 8 am on Sunday, November 9. The game actually kicks off at 1 pm.

gametime2Gametime did get the University of Michigan game and the Pistons start time correct, but they were an hour early on the Michigan State game. There wasn’t a way to change your timezone, so make sure to cross check the actual game times with what is listed. After checking more Lions games, it appears as though each game time for the Detroit football team is wrong.


If you happen to find any other unusual goings on, reporting them to Gametime is as easy as shooting an email to their feedback email address or one could call or text them from 8am-11pm Pacific at their 1-800 number. Both help options are listed on their website FAQ, not in-app however.

Overall the app does exactly what it should: purchasing tickets from mobile quickly and easily, usually  without having to print them off. A small number of venues still require a paper PDF ticket but that is outside of Gametime’s control. It can certainly be a useful app for everything from a last-minute decision to go to a game or if you just need an extra ticket while on the way to the stadium.

Microsoft Gets in the Health Tracking Game

Microsoft had long relegated themselves to the software business only. With the fairly-recent releases of the Surface and new Windows-branded phones, it seems as if the folks in Redmond were finally comfortable dipping their toes into the hardware waters. That’s even more evident today, as Microsoft has announced a new wearable fitness band called, simply, the Microsoft Band.

Microsoft Band does an interesting job of blurring the lines between fitness band and smartwatch. At a $200 price point, it falls in between those two categories as well. The device boasts 10 sensors, tracking things like heartbeat, sleep, and run/bike routes. Beyond those usual metrics, Microsoft Band will also look at UV data from the sun, and collect stress-level information. It also features a small touchscreen that can be used for notifications, call alerts, quick calendar viewing, and more.

The announcement of the device goes hand-in-hand with the release of Microsoft Health, a cross-platform app that lets you view stats about your activity, workout, and sleep habits. It will, of course, pair with Microsoft Band, but other device developers will be allowed to use the platform as well. Microsoft Health isn’t just relegated to Windows phones either, as an iOS and Android version of the app are now available. At the current time, it appears as if you can only pair a Microsoft Band with the app, and not any third-party devices.

The device, at least according to Microsoft’s official photos, looks pretty sleek. And they’ve packed a lot of functionality into that little guy as well. Like the upcoming FitBit offerings, Microsoft is looking to add enough functionality to the device to appeal to people who want a combo meal of tracker and smartwatch, without adding too many whistles so as to make the price a nonstarter.

$200 isn’t an insignificant amount of money, but for the health- and fitness-conscious, it might be the sweet spot of data gathering and smartphone functionality.

The Microsoft Band is available for preorder, or for immediate purchase at your local Microsoft Store.

Strava’s Expanding Role

Strava, makers of the workout app of the same name — available for free on iOS and Android — is venturing further into their client’s lives. On top of their GPS tracking, challenge-a-friend routines and viewable stats, Strava is seeking to join you up with local runners and cyclists as well.

With their Strava Metro system already in place showing where people are running or biking, the next step for the company seems to become a social app as well as a fitness one. With $18.5 million from the latest investor group, Sequoia Capital, and prior groups Sigma West and Madrone Capital Partners, Strava is seeking to bring fitness-minded people together.

In a press release, Michael Moritz, Chairman of Sequoia Capital said:

“Strava is building tomorrow’s sporting network in the manner that Facebook and LinkedIn have developed today’s social and professional networks. Even for the hapless and occasional athletes at Sequoia, Strava has become the essential and amusing way to post and compare our woeful performances and share them with friends and family,”

From using Strava Metro to map out a popular routine, to soon being able to map out a group run with similarly-conditioned strangers, Strava is aiming to becoming a social workout company. Strava already ties in with Instagram so hashtagging, taking morning sunrise pictures or anything that may catch one’s eye is quick and easy. Given the recent investment and the idea on how to use said investment, Strava CEO Mark Gainey was quoted as saying:

“Since day one we have focused on building a network that serves to motivate and entertain the world’s athletes. With Sequoia joining our team, we are better positioned to execute our mission and strengthen Strava’s leadership in digital sports.”

According to the company FAQ, Strava has collected over 300 billion GPS points and boasts over 2.5 million GPS tracked activities being uploaded each week. With funding in hand, a growing user base and a constantly expanding sample size, Strava appears to be the app of choice for many running and cycling enthusiasts.

Game Developer Sims Mets Season in a Tiny Citi Field

We here at TechGraphs are big fans of Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP), and you should be too. It’s an immensely deep and feature-rich baseball simulator that allows you to create your own dream team using past or present players. Do to its extreme customizability, it also makes for some great thought experiments.

Recently, the New York Mets announced that they would, once again, be moving in the outfield fences in the right-center portion of Citi Field to make the park a little more hitter friendly. This will be the second time since 2012 the outfield fences have been tweaked with. The news lead to a myriad of jokes on Twitter, including this:

Which led to this:

Which led to the fine folks at OOTP actually testing this theory out. Over on the OOTP blog, Brad Cook outlines just how he went about simulating a 2015 Mets season with a home park that was the Bandbox to Rule Them All.

Cook actually uses two methodologies, one with a straight 150-foot fence, and one with a slightly more realistically curved one. Click the link for the full details, but be prepared for Ike Davis to win the Triple Crown (and still be less valuable than Mike Trout). Needless to say, the Mets score a lot of runs and give up a lot of runs. But in one scenario, they actually manage to be a pretty decent team (there’s hope, Mets fans!)

OOTP is a wonderful game to play the “normal” way, but it’s tricks and tweaks like these that make it all the more enjoyable. On a similar note, friend of the site Patrick Dubuque performed a similar-ish experiment, creating four teams consisting of nothing but Adam Dunns, Koji Ueharas, Dee Gordons, and Bartolo Colons. This type of thing slices through the meaty side of life, and when the winter doldrums hit my abode, you can be sure that I’ll be experimenting like this until Spring Training starts.

(Header image via Cathy T)

Potential Breakthrough in ACL Injury Prevention

Most everyone remembers the old “shin bone connected to the knee bone, knee bone connected to the thigh bone” song. While not exactly taught in medical school, everything in the leg is connected one way or another. And according to a recent study, calf muscles, not hamstrings may have more to do with ACL and knee injuries than previously thought.

The study was conducted by The University of Western Australia’s School of Sport Science as well as the University of Tennessee’s Exercise and Health program. The groups observed a series of Australian Rules football players each doing single leg jump landings while attempting to grab a football.

Analysts set up a series of 12-cameras to create a three-dimensional computer model of each football player’s jumping and landing. The findings surprised the researches and Assistant Professor Cyril Donnelly of UWA said:

“This was initially surprising as 30 years of clinical research has suggested the hamstring muscles were key players for supporting the knee during sporting tasks, We are not saying you don’t use your hamstrings, just not as much as we originally thought.”

The previously linked article states over 200,000 ACL injuries occur every year in the United States alone, and these numbers by the University of California, San Francisco claim approximately 70% of these injuries occur playing sports. Soccer, football, skiing and basketball being the primary sports behind ACL injuries.

Be it a figure skater coming off of a double-axel, a defender trying to head a corner kick out of his box or an outfielder leaping at the wall to rob a home run, one-leg jump landings are incredibly common in many sports. From an injury prevention standpoint or even rehabbing post-injury, perhaps we’ll begin to see trainers and medical staff focus more on the calf when dealing with ACL issues.

(Header photo via Becky Stern)

Amazon Releases Fire TV Stick – Another Cheap Way to Stream Sports Content (and Other Stuff)

Cord-cutters looking for a device to stream their favorite (out-of-market, of course) sports have no shortage of options. Most gaming consoles have plenty of sports app offerings. Other products like Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast have a lot of overlap in their app choices as well. For most, much of their decision comes down to which ecosystem in which they are already entrenched. Already bought a bunch of stuff on iTunes? Apple TV might be for you. People who use Google Play for a lot of purchases might find Chromecast to be more prudent. Recently, Amazon got into the streaming device game as well, offering the Fire TV that piggybacked on their ever-expanding package of services. Though the original Fire TV came in at a very reasonable $99, Amazon has just released the smaller Fire TV Stick for less than half of that. And if you’re an Amazon Prime member already, you can nab one for an even more enticing number — $19.

The Fire TV Stick and the already established (and well reviewed) Roku stick look a lot alike. While Roku tries to remain platform agnostic, the Fire TV Stick, like it’s predecessor, is heavily tied in to Amazon’s Prime Service, which offers TV and Movie rentals and purchases, free streaming of some content, and a streaming music catalog. The Stick is priced at $39, $4 more than a Chromecast and $11 less than a Roku Streaming Stick, but current Prime members can get it for less than a Jackson. Non-Prime users can even sign up for a 30-day free trial and still get the discount. Users of MLB.TV and NBA League Pass will be able to follow those sports with the respective apps on Fire TV Stick, and the device also offers support for WatchESPN. Of course, other services like Netflix and Hulu are also included.

The streaming device market is a competitive one. For my money, Roku still offers the best selection of sports-streaming apps. But if you’re already tied into the Amazon ecosystem, that tasty price point plus the added ability to watch baseball and basketball might just be enough to sway you.

Study Shows Technology Advancements Can Help Figure Skating Safety

The body of a figure skater is put under an extreme of abuse. The jumps involved create a great deal of force on the lower body. Currently, it is not really possible to measure just how much force is being absorbed, or where. Some scientists are hoping to change that.

A new article from IOP Science says that there’s a lack of resources available to ensure the health and safety of figure skaters. However, this study says that there have been advancements in trying to create a blade that will help towards that goal.

The abstract covers “the development of an instrumented figure skating blade for measuring forces on-ice.” There’s a lot of physics involved, but this is the most interesting part of the abstract:

The measurement system consists of strain gauges attached to the blade, Wheatstone bridge circuit boards, and a data acquisition device. 

The rest of the abstract goes into detail about how the technology works.

The system is capable of measuring forces in the vertical and horizontal directions (inferior–superior and anterior–posterior directions, respectively) in each stanchion with a sampling rate of at least 1000 Hz and a resolution of approximately one-tenth of body weight.

Scientists are hoping that the data collected from this device will help people better understand the magnitude and the location of these intense forces on a figure skater’s body. This information will help go toward the prevention of use injuries — i.e. injuries caused by overexertion (strained muscle) rather than a singular incident (broken bone). Because of the nature of the sport, the only way to collect that data is actually while on the ice. Micro-computing has now made that a reality.

(Header photo via Dr.frog)

A Workout Worth Your Time

From the “8-minute abs (VHS alert!) ” to even the “7-minute abs” we have seen time become a critical factor in choosing our workouts. From jogging just every other day to maybe twice a week, to perhaps once a week, I’ve seen the ugly side of sitting at a desk firsthand. Things changed for the better last year when The New York Times launched their Scientific 7-Minute Workout app and today they released the advanced version for iOS and Android. Now between the two apps, the combined workout is still probably less than your commute to work.

The original 7-Minute Workout required only yourself, a stable chair and the wall isn’t particularly challenging, but still well worth the minimal time investment. A non-rolling chair is best suited for the required tricep dips, but if all you have is a roller then make sure to brace it against the wall.

workout3To help guide you on your quest to workout more frequently is a voiced personal trainer. You’re able to pick either male, female or no voiceover whatsoever. Be warned, if you do opt for the trainer, your music — at least on iOS — will stop playing. It isn’t the end of the world, but I can’t remember the last time I worked out without any music to distract me.

workout1The advanced version requires a pair of dumbbells — of whichever weight you feel comfortable to start with, you can always increase the weight as you progress — but those are something that can be found fairly cheap either online or at any sports store. The advanced workout is defined as:

“A more demanding nine-step regimen than the original 7-Minute Workout, one that requires of a couple of dumbbells but still only takes seven minutes.”

After going through both workouts this morning I can already tell I should do these more frequently. Luckily it is basically winter here in midwest, so I can rationalize and consider these extra pounds to be my hibernation weight. Both the standard 7-Minute and the Advanced 7-Minute Workouts are well worth the time. Given the accompanying price of absolutely free, I highly recommend this for anyone else who finds themselves pinned to a desk 40+ hours per week. The app won’t immediately whip you into shape — diet of course comes to play — however for less than a quarter of an hour each day, there is no reason to pass on it.

A full step-by-step workout guide is available at The New York Times link posted in the opening paragraph or by clicking here.

Augmented Reality and the Spectator Sport

We are already accustomed to seeing unreal sights in our sports. But what about seeing tracers for free throws and drive charts on the gridiron when we are at the stadium?

When the yellow line appears on the first down line, we don’t hide behind our couches in caveman fear, nor do we dive under the bed when car names and driver photos appear above the machines zipping around the Daytona Speedway. And baseball fans have embraced the new MLB Statcast, which debuted during the 2014 MLB All-Star break and has shined in the 2014 MLB postseason. It essentially quantifies every movement on a baseball field and then visualizes the data for viewers at home:

But Google’s recent acquisition of startup Magic Leap has me pondering the next integration of the real and non-real sports experience. Here’s a quick primer on Magic Leap and why it’s important:
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