Sports

Google Fit gets a redesign, adds Heart Points and coaching

Posted by | activity trackers, Android, Apps, Endomondo, Google, Google Fit, Mobile, mobile software, myfitnesspal, RunKeeper, smartwatches, Software, Sports, Strava, TC | No Comments

Google Fit is getting a major update today. The company’s activity tracking app has been around for a few years now but until today, it pretty much worked and looked that same as on the day it launched. Today’s redesign is quite a departure from that old look and feel, though, and it also introduces quite a few new features that help take the service in a new direction.

The most obvious new feature in the new version is that instead of only focusing on active minutes (or ‘Move Minutes’ as they are called now), Google has now introduced the concept of Heart Points. With this, you don’t just score points for moving, the app will also reward you for activities that actually get your heart beating a bit faster. Google Fit will give you one point for every minute of moderate activity and double points for more intense activities (think running or kickboxing). You won’t be able to buy anything with those points, but you’re more likely to live longer, so there’s that.

Like before, Google Fit will automatically track your activities thanks to the sensors in your phone or Wear OS watch. You can always manually add activities, too, or use apps like Strava, Runkeeper, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal to get credit for the workouts you track with them.

What’s also new in this update is actionable coaching, something that was sorely missing from the old version. It remains to be seen how useful this new feature is in day-to-day use, but the idea here is to give you feedback on how active you’ve been throughout the week and help you stay motivated.

What I’m actually the most excited about, though, is the new look and feel. Based on the screenshots Google has shared so far, the app now provides you with far more details at a glance, without having to dig into timelines (which weren’t all that usable in the old version to begin with).

The new version is now rolling out to Android and Wear OS users.

Powered by WPeMatico

EA apologizes for ‘unfortunate mistake’ of cutting Colin Kaepernick reference from ‘Madden’

Posted by | ea, Gaming, nfl, Sports | No Comments

EA became the subject of online scrutiny this week when it was discovered that the gaming giant deleted a reference to Colin Kaepernick on the soundtrack for Madden 19. The former 49ers quarterback was name-checked by rapper Big Sean on a verse of the YG song “Big Bank,” only to have the mention deleted. The track includes the line, “You boys all cap, I’m more Colin Kaepernick.”

The move was noted on Twitter this week and amplified by radio host (and Kaepernick’s girlfriend) Nessa Diab, along with Big Sean himself. The latter said the reference was deleted “like it was a curse word,” adding, “he’s not a curse, he’s a gift! Nobody from my team approved any of this.”

Oh!!!!! @EAMaddenNFL who told you to edit Colin’s name out???? @nfl ? @NFLPA Curious minds want to know 👁 Thanks Jean for the info!!! If you guys see more shady stuff send it over. https://t.co/EIBQbaQ5SA

— NESSA (@nessnitty) August 2, 2018

Kaepernick became a leading figure in the Black Lives Matter movement after sitting and later kneeling during the National Anthem as a form of protest against black deaths at the hands of police officers. A number of NFL players have since followed suit, leading Donald Trump to call for the firing of players over on-field protests. 

Hey Sean, no doubt we messed up here. We look forward to making it right. pic.twitter.com/taFXQ7UwBA

— EA SPORTS Madden NFL (@EAMaddenNFL) August 3, 2018

In a statement to TechCrunch, EA called the deletion “an unfortunate mistake,” chalking up the move to confusion of relating to player rights:

We made an unfortunate mistake with our Madden NFL soundtrack. Members of our team misunderstood the fact that while we don’t have rights to include Colin Kaepernick in the game, this doesn’t affect soundtracks. We messed up, and the edit should never have happened. We will make it right, with an update to Madden NFL 19 on August 6 that will include the reference again. We meant no disrespect, and we apologize to Colin, to YG and Big Sean, to the NFL, to all of their fans and our players for this mistake.

NBC Sports notes, however, that this is apparently not the first time Kaepernick’s name has been removed from a Madden soundtrack. While the player’s likeness appeared in last year’s version of the game, his name was apparently also removed from the Mike WiLL Made-It track, “Bars of Soap.” 

Powered by WPeMatico

What should competitive Fortnite look like?

Posted by | epic games, esports, fortnite, fortnite battle royale, Gaming, Sports, Startups, TC | No Comments

Last weekend, Epic Games put forth its first true effort at official competitive Fortnite Battle Royale. It was a disaster.

The private hosts used for the tournament were about as laggy as could be, with pro players getting eliminated simply because they couldn’t move. This tournament was for a total prize of $250K. That’s big money, and big frustration for pro players who were essentially eliminated by the whims of the server gods. But on top of the lag, the whole thing was, well, boring. A cardinal sin in any sport.

The fact is that when you put 100 pro players in a lobby together and tell them that the last man standing wins, most of them will simply sit in a fort and stay safe as long as possible. This does not generate a whole lot of action.

And when there is action on the map, there was no way for a spectator to know about it. There are, after all, a hundred people to watch out for, and jumping from one engagement to another is not only difficult but lacks a certain narrative quality, making the whole thing feel scattered.

It seems clear that a guided mode or hotspot indicator would go a long way to improving the viewing experience. Being told where the fighting was or could be happening or having a guide that flagged these opportunities could work. There could also be a documentary-style concept that followed a few top players on their entire run, with the hope that they’ll find action and maybe even be pushed into conflict to impress viewers.

Epic recently published a post-mortem on the event, outlining ways that the publisher can improve on the tournament. They’ve also set forth the rules for this weekend’s event, proposing a score-based tournament where both eliminations and Victory Royales count toward players’ overall score. Whether or not this will incentivize more action will be determined following the event.

It’s also worth noting that Epic scheduled today’s event during the Fortnite Friday tournament. Fortnite Friday, hosted by popular YouTuber Keemstar and facilitated by UMG, was a $20,000 elimination-based tournament with top players. In this week of the Summer Skirmish Series, which is worth a total of $8 million, Epic is choosing to host a two-day tournament, effectively rendering Fortnite Friday playerless.

It doesn’t have to be this way, Epic. I know that the concept of 100 of the best players in the world dropping into one map sounds incredible. It does. It sounds great, in theory. But in practice, it’s just a disorderly live stream of a bunch of highly talented players sitting around in bases, or, worse, lagging to the point of being frozen.

And, an invitational tournament (that goes terribly wrong) doesn’t scream “inclusive,” which is what Epic repeatedly says competitive Fortnite should be.

There is another way, and it’s the same way that Fortnite players have been competing for months now. A kill race.

But let’s back up a bit.

What should competitive Fortnite be?

Right now, Fortnite is played by 100 people in a single lobby, and “winning” the game is defined by being the last survivor(s). This can be played in solo mode, with 100 individuals facing off against the storm and each other, or in 50 teams of two (Duos), or 25 teams of four (Squads).

Video games often get tweaks for the competitive scene, whether it’s limiting the resources/gear that players can use or reducing the number of maps that can be played. When skill level is that high, most games must make changes to allow for true competition.

Given it’s still early days, Fortnite Battle Royale featuring purely pro players simply hasn’t worked.

But as it stands now, there are roughly two schools of thought.

Whoever gets the most eliminations wins.

Pros:

  • Super fun to watch
  • Requires skill
  • Inclusive to non-pro players

Cons:

  • A lot of RNG
  • More time-consuming

Gamebattle sites like CMG and UMG have been running minor tournaments for quite a while now using this format. Fortnite Friday, arguably one of the biggest weekly tournaments, also follows this format.

Here’s how it works: Individual players load up in a Duo match on the same team, or teams of two load up into a Squad match, also on the same team, and race for who can get the most kills in a public match.

This means that these opposing players can’t kill each other, but can keep track of each other’s kills and placement on the map. When you’re racing for kills, understanding where the other duo is fighting and how many kills they have is important information.

Given only four players are competing at a time, that means the rest of the 92 people on the map are regular Fortnite players.

This is where RNG comes into play. RNG is a term used in gaming that means Random Number Generator. It is the gaming equivalent of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic.” It essentially means there is some level of random luck involved in the game. For example, you might land in a place where there is usually a weapon or chest, but that weapon or chest isn’t there, leaving you vulnerable to other players who land around you.

Great players can work around or overcome a certain level of RNG, but if the opposing team comes up on a squad of noobs and your team rolls up on a squad of great players, the tide of the match will inevitably shift against you, and may even result in a loss.

This is the cost of the 2v2 format that has become popularized with the vast majority of Fortnite competitive players.

While it takes more time to have 100 players compete four at a time, this format allows the viewer to watch no more than four players as they traverse the map and seek eliminations. At most, the audience has to follow along with four separate stories on the map. In most cases, duos play together, which brings that number down to two. In either case, it’s much easier than following along with the stories of 50 separate teams.

Traditional Battle Royale

Pros:

  • Less RNG
  • Amazing build fights
  • Fair, in the sense that players are fighting players of equal skill level

Cons:

  • It’s boring
  • Not inclusive
  • Confusing and scattered for viewers

This format was used during the Ninja Live tournament, the Fortnite ProAm tournament and, most recently, during the $8 million Summer Skirmish series, hosted by Epic Games.

Here’s how it works: 100 pro players/streamers pair off into teams of two and all load into the same lobby, with the goal of lasting the longest.

As I said, Fortnite Battle Royale is built around the idea that there would be a sole survivor, but doesn’t predicate that survival on a certain level of skill. In other words, it’s relatively easy to hide, avoid fights and survive to the near end of a game, or potentially even win. It doesn’t take much skill to squat in a bush or set traps in a house and sit in the bathroom.

Obviously, with pro players, there will be gunfights, and those gunfights should be pretty interesting. But they are few and far between, and are difficult to predict and capture for the live stream.

This also excludes regular players from being a part of the action. Yes, it’s a risk to construct a competitive scene on the backs of public gameplay. But it’s also never been done before in the pro gaming world. And it is the best way to include public players into the competitive scene. A regular player is far more likely to get interested in the competitive scene knowing that, on Friday or Saturday, they have the chance to play against the world’s greatest competitors.

The best way to build on the momentum of Fortnite’s popularity, as well as support the community as a whole, is to build out tournaments focused on eliminations within public lobbies.

It makes sense for Epic to want to control that experience, and it certainly makes sense for Epic to want the competitive scene to fit within the game they built, which is a Battle Royale. But thus far, competitive Battle Royale featuring purely pro players simply hasn’t worked. And it feels slightly underhanded for Epic to barrel over Fortnite Friday, given that the more competitive tournaments around Fortnite, the better for the game.

The community is here, telling you what it wants, Epic. And in true Fortnite fashion, if you build it, they will come.

Powered by WPeMatico

Overwatch League strikes a milestone deal with Disney and ESPN

Posted by | abc, Activision Blizzard, disney xd, Entertainment, espn, esports, Gaming, Sports, TC | No Comments

If you’re sick of hearing about esports, you need to get over it. The space continues to grow, inching its way into the traditional media landscape. Today, in fact, Activision Blizzard announced that the Overwatch League playoffs will be aired on ESPN and Disney XD.

The Overwatch League in itself is a huge step for esports, as it’s the first true city-based league for a competitive video game. While most esports leagues consist of privately owned teams with little or nothing to do with geography, Overwatch League is a pro league made up of city-based teams such as the Dallas Fuel or the San Francisco Shock. Many of these teams are owned by big names in the traditional sports world, such as Robert Kraft (CEO and owner of New England Patriots, who owns the Boston Uprising) and Jeff Wilpon (COO of the New York Mets, who owns the New York Excelsior).

The agreement, which also includes a recap/highlights package from 2018 Grand Finals coverage on ABC on July 29, marks the first time that live competitive gaming has aired on ESPN in prime time, and will be the first broadcast of an esports championship on ABC. Activision Blizzard said in the announcement that this is just the start of a multi-year agreement.

That said, EA’s Madden NFL 18 did broadcast an esports tournament on ESPN2 and Disney XD earlier this year.

Overwatch League playoffs begin tonight at 8pm ET, and will culminate in the Grand Finals, taking place in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, on July 27 and July 28.

Here’s what Justin Connolly, EVP of Affiliate Sales and Marketing at Disney and ESPN, had to say in a prepared statement:

The Overwatch League Grand Finals is by far our most comprehensive television distribution for an esports event over a single weekend: 10 total hours over four networks and three days. This overall collaboration with Disney/ABC, ESPN and Blizzard represents our continued commitment to esports, and we look forward to providing marquee Overwatch League coverage across our television platforms for fans.

The rise of Twitch stars, like Ninja, and the growth of the competitive gaming scene have paved the way not only for a new type of sports media, but for a growing new economy. While challenges remain around monetizing the content, the pieces of the puzzle are slowing coming together to create an audience large enough to incentivize advertisers to spend big money.

In fact, sponsorship revenue and ad spending revenue are expected to hit $655 million and $224 million, respectively, by 2020, according to Newzoo. That doesn’t sound like much when you think about the NFL, which raked in $1.3 billion in revenue in 2017 alone. But, like this deal proves, the esports space is growing and working its way into the mainstream, hoping to get the attention of young men between 18 and 34 who have become increasingly difficult to reach via traditional advertising.

Alongside the live TV broadcast of the Overwatch League playoffs on ESPN and Disney XD, the playoffs will also be live-streamed via Twitch, MLG.com and on the ESPN app and DisneyNOW.

Powered by WPeMatico

PlayVS CEO Delane Parnell to talk high school esports at Disrupt SF

Posted by | delane parnell, Disrupt, disrupt sf 2018, Education, Gaming, playvs, Sports, Startups, TC | No Comments

The gaming world is evolving at a rapid clip. No longer is the idea of the lonely gamer a reality. Twitch and Discord have brought gamers together and given everyone the opportunity to see just how talented some of these young players are. Meanwhile, publishers and esports organizations have built out an infrastructure.

But there is plenty left to do, and PlayVS founder and CEO Delane Parnell is well aware of this.

We’re amped to announce that Parnell is joining us at TC Disrupt SF in September to talk about how high school esports could pave the way for even more growth in this industry.

PlayVS is a startup that has partnered with the NFHS to bring esports to the high school level, providing infrastructure around scheduling, refs, rules and state tournaments. Not only does this allow high school students to get extracurricular experience doing what they love (playing video games), but it offers a new way for esports orgs and colleges to look at the bright young talent coming up through the ranks.

PlayVS launched in April after securing its partnership with the NFHS. Through this partnership, the company will be able to bring organized esports to more than 18 states and approximately 5 million students across 5,000 high schools.

The company has since raised $15 million in Series A, and the inaugural season begins in October of this year.

We’re absolutely thrilled to get the chance to sit down with Parnell to discuss the launch of the platform and hear about how high school esports could set the tone for the industry as a whole.

Passes to Disrupt SF are available here at the Early Bird rate until July 25.

Powered by WPeMatico

The International Olympic Committee is curious about esports

Posted by | esports, Gaming, international olympic committee, Sports, Startups, TC | No Comments

If there’s still any doubt that esports is coming into the mainstream, just look to the world’s biggest sporting event: The Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) have announced they will host an esports forum, looking to gauge whether or not esports has a place in the Olympics.

According to the release, the IOC and GAISF will host esports players, game publishers, teams, media, sponsors and event organizers, as well as National Olympic Committees, International Sports Federations, athletes and the IOC. The group as a whole is looking to “explore synergies, build joint understanding, and set a platform for future engagement between esports and gaming industries and the Olympic Movement.”

In the release, GAISF President Patrick Baumann said:

Along with the IOC, the GAISF looks forward to welcoming the esports and gaming community to Lausanne. We understand that sport never stands still and the phenomenal growth of esports and gaming is part of its continuing evolution. The Esports Forum provides an important and extremely valuable opportunity for us to gain a deeper understanding of esports, their impact and likely future development, so that we can jointly consider the ways in which we may collaborate to the mutual benefit of all of sport in the years ahead.

Some of the panels at the forum include an interview on “The Key to Twitch’s Success,” “Future Opportunities for Collaboration,” an interview on “A Day in the Life of an Elite Player” and a panel on “Gender Equality in All Sports.”

Esports have continued to grow at an impressive clip. The Overwatch League has introduced city-based teams into the mix, while Fortnite had a huge Pro-Am tournament at e3, not to mention Epic’s introduction of a $100 million tournament prize pool for competitive play.

Considering how bizarre some of the Olympic sports are — I’m looking at you, Biathlon — the potential introduction of esports to the Olympic slate almost seems ordinary.

Powered by WPeMatico

CBS to stream NFL games on mobile

Posted by | CBS, CBS All Access, cord cutting, Football, Media, Mobile, nfl, Sports, streaming | No Comments

CBS today announced an expanded agreement with the NFL which will allow it to stream NFL ON CBS games through its over-the-top service, CBS All Access, through 2022. The deal includes, for the first time, rights to stream the games on mobile devices. The changes will begin this season, and will additionally include the ability for TV Everywhere subscribers (those who have an existing pay TV subscription) to stream the games on mobile, too.

According to the network, the entire 2018 NFL ON CBS season, including Super Bowl LIII, will stream live on CBS All Access across all platforms. This includes not only mobile devices and the web, but also on media streaming devices like Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, Fire TV, and game consoles like Xbox One and Playstation, plus Samsung Smart TVs.

The games will also be available to those who chose to subscribe to CBS All Access through Amazon’s a la carte TV service, Amazon Channels.

CBS already had streaming rights to NFL games, starting in the 2016 season. But Verizon [disclosure: TC parent by way of Oath] held exclusive mobile streaming rights to games until their deal expired with the 2017 season. That change has broadened access to NFL games on mobile.

For example, Fox’s multi-year deal for Thursday Night Football also included mobile rights, Variety reported. Verizon is now streaming games through Yahoo, Go90 and other properties on mobile. And NBCU and ESPN have Sunday and Monday Night Football deals that involve mobile streaming, the site also noted.

For the NFL, it needs to broaden access to games on mobile devices to address issues with lower ratings that’s, in part, attributed to cord cutting.

And for CBS, access to the games on mobile could give its streaming service a boost in the wake of what may be slowing growth, and the mistake of putting too much pressure on the “Star Trek” prequel to deliver subscribers. “Star Trek: Discovery” has underwhelmed some fans, leaving it with a 4.7 out 10 user score on Metacritic, and a lot of negative reviews on IMDb.

In other words, CBS can’t count on those core Trek fans to subscribe to All Access just to watch the new show, as it may have hoped.

Bringing in NFL fans could help with sign-ups – as will being available on Amazon Channels, which accounts for some 55% of direct-to-consumer subscriptions, according to reports.

“We are excited to extend our partnership with CBS as it aligns perfectly with our goal of providing NFL fans with greater opportunities to watch NFL games across digital devices,” said Hans Schroeder, Chief Operating Officer of NFL Media and Business, in a statement about the CBS deal. “The 2018 season will mark a new era for NFL fans with unprecedented access to NFL games across digital platforms.”

Powered by WPeMatico

PlayVS, bringing esports infrastructure to high schools, picks up $15 million

Posted by | esports, funding, Gaming, playvs, Sports, Startups, TC | No Comments

PlayVS, the startup building esports infrastructure at the high school level, has today announced the close of a $15 million Series A funding round. The financing was led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from existing investor Science, as well as CrossCut Ventures, Coatue Management, Cross Culture Ventures, the San Francisco 49ers, Nas, Dollar Shave Club founder Michael Dubin, Twitch cofounder Kevin Lin, and others.

PlayVS first publicly launched out of the LA-based Science startup studio in April. The company partnered with the NFHS, the equivalent of the NCAA for high school-level sports, to build out leagues, rules and more around high school esports.

Most high school sports are governed by the NFHS, which writes the rules, hires referees, schedules seasons and determines the format of playoffs and state championships. That same infrastructure might carry over from one high school sport to another, but esports represents a new challenge for the NFHS.

PlayVS brings to market a platform that schedules games, helps schools hold try-outs and form teams, and pulls in stats real-time from games thanks to partnerships with game publishers.

In October, PlayVS will launch its inaugural season, bringing organized esports to more than 18 states and approximately 5 million students across 5,000 high schools.

As esports continue to grow, colleges and professional organizations have already started investing in scholarship programs and pro teams respectively. But whereas other high-level teams look at high school athletes for recruiting, the same infrastructure has not yet been put into place for esports.

PlayVS wants to change that. The new round of funding will go towards expanding the product and the team to eventually put PlayVS in every high school across the country. The company has yet to announce which schools will participate and which games will be available during the first season, but PlayVS has confirmed that the games will be PC-based and will come from the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, Fighting and Sports genres.

Powered by WPeMatico

Watch these robotic soccer players play a nail-biter of a match

Posted by | artificial intelligence, Gadgets, nao, RoboCup, robot, robotics, Softbank, Sports, TC | No Comments

As a hater of all sports, I am particularly excited about the imminent replacement of humans with robots in soccer. If this exciting match, the Standard Platform League (SPL) final of the German Open featuring the Nao-Team HTWK vs. Nao Devils, is any indication, the future is going to be great.

The robots are all NAO robots by SoftBank and they are all designed according to the requirements of the Standard Platform League. The robots can run (sort of), kick (sort of), and lift themselves up if they fall. The 21 minute video is a bit of a slog and the spectators are definitely not drunk hooligans but darned if it isn’t great to see little robots hitting the turf to grab a ball before it hits the goal.

I, for one, welcome our soccer-playing robot overlords.

Powered by WPeMatico

Don’t foul this free-throwing Toyota basketball robot

Posted by | Anime, basketball, film, Gadgets, hardware, Japan, national basketball association, NBA, robot, robotics, Sports, TC | No Comments

Because if it gets to the free-throw line, it sinks the shot – every. single. time. This robot (via The Verge) is the project of a group of Toyota engineers using their spare time, to build a robot inspired by the manga Slam Dunk, which is about a Japanese high school basketball team.

The engineers brought their robot out to face off against humans, (pro players, though pro players from a B–league in Japan, not NBA) but the robot nailed it every time. Still, it’s a free–throw competition – humans still have a gigantic lead on other aspects of basketball, like most of them, in fact. Don’t get me started on the dunk competition.



Powered by WPeMatico