Friday, September 27, 2013

The America's Cup - A Victory For Visualizations

The once-in-a-life-time, come-from-behind victory of Larry Ellison's Oracle team over the New Zealand Emirates boat in the 2013 America's Cup was a riveting piece of sports theater from start to finish. This stunning win ranks in the sailing world alongside the Red Sox's ALCS baseball triumph over the 2004 Yankees and the United States Olympic hockey coup over the 1980 Russians.

Source: TechCrunch
What really made this year's showcase mesmerizing, however, was the dynamic graphic overlay on the television screen. The real-time, superimposed lines and labels brought a somewhat esoteric sport into the mind-blowing mainstream. These visualizations of sail routes, course boundaries, wind speeds, wave directions, and boat IDs all did exactly what visual aids are supposed to do -- they added information and clarity to teach viewers about the nuances of the race.



The TechCrunch video above features a fascinating interview with Stan Honey, the genius behind this year's viewer experience. Honey is the godfather of interactive sports visualizations. Known previously for football's yellow first-down line, baseball's pitch zone highlights, hockey's glowing puck tracker, and auto racing's car callouts, Honey wanted to elevate sailing to similar, technological ranks.

Visual thinking is the use of graphic elements to organize and understand an issue. Here, in the high-stakes world of million-dollar racing, new animations made the race thrilling for worldwide spectators. Unlike in prior, deep ocean snooze-fests, this year's Cup witnessed a head-to-head contest of vessels skimming the shifty coastal waters of San Francisco Bay at over 40 knots.

Source: America's Cup
The video interview emphasizes the benefits of high-quality visualizations to teach an audience. These skills of graphicacy, in encoding and decoding images, are more vital than ever in our multimedia world. Using these techniques in the classroom can help expand understanding in any subject, in any genre.

Take a look, too, at this news clip from Bloomberg, which emphasizes the physical design and innovations behind the beautiful catamarans. The boats in this year's race, with their twin-hulled, carbon-fiber construction, embody the cutting edge of high-octane sailing. For all the young tinkerers and makers in our classrooms, this behind-the-scenes look at engineering could inspire the next generation of champions to hoist the Auld Mug.


For other insights into the union of sports and visualizations, check out:

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