ICC Champions Trophy sees cricket spin into 21st century with drones, VR and smart bats

Cricket is spinning into the 21st century, with this year’s ICC Champions Trophy introducing a raft of new technologies to the sport – including drones, smart bat sensors, and a VR fan experience.

Cricket is hardly synonymous with technological innovation, but the sport is taking strides to smarten up its game – starting with the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.

For starters, the tournament – which kicked off on June 1 – sees Intel’s Falcon 8 drone being used for pre-match pitch analysis.

The UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) is equipped with HD and infrared cameras, which allow it to capture images and feedback reports on pitch conditions, including grass cover, health, and topology.

As well as helping groundskeepers better maintain the pitch, it also means commentators are armed with more information for their broadcasts, and fans can glean additional insights.

Speaking of which, the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy also heralds the arrival of the Speculur BatSense, an intelligent cricket accessory that features Intel’s Curie technology.

It mounts on to any cricket bat and generates rich data for every stroke played, covering parameters like back-lift, bat speed, and follow through.

During the Champions Trophy, this stands to further add to the punditry arsenal, with a number of top players deploying the sensor.

It might sound a bit superflous to all but the most diehard cricket enthusiast, but I saw it in action during the opening England vs Bangladesh match, and even as a casual fan, it genuinely enriched the experience – by which I mean, helped me make smarter bets.

Better still, Speculur plans to launch a consumer version of the BatSense later in the year, so it stands to aid cricketers of all ability levels – a bit like the Zepp Golf 2 sensor does on the driving range.

It’ll be launching in Australia, India, the US and the UK in H2 2017, according to the company.

Lastly, this year’s tournament will see fans able to enjoy new VR experience on match days at Edgbaston and the Oval, where HMDs (head mounted displays) will allow punters to test their batting skills against virtual bowlers and even receive a mock score, in addition to various data on their strokes.

If you want to see the new tech in action, the ICC Champions Trophy runs until June 18, and the latest ticketing info can be found here.

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Are you enthused by the amount of tech that’s creeping into the world of sport? Sound off in the comments below.