The FIVB LED Nets Are Horrible

A prototype of the new FIVB LED volleyball net.  Original Photo: Around The Rings.

A prototype of the new FIVB LED volleyball net.  Original Photo: Around The Rings.

 

The FIVB has just concluded two months of competition for the 2014 Men's and Women's World Championships in Poland and Italy.  Fresh off the success of these events, The FIVB has released a preview of things we should expect the upcoming 2015 year.

The LED Volleyball Net

An FIVB Press Release has a quote from the President about a LED volleyball net.

Our next big development for 2015 will be the new LED nets which will be massive step for the commercial appeal of volleyball. These nets are for the fans. As the Rosetta Stone partnership will enhance communication on court, the LED net will facilitate communication between the athletes competing and the fans that are cheering for them.
— FIVB President Ary Graça
FIVB President Ary Graça presents the tournament MVP award to USA's Kim Hill.  Photo: FIVB

FIVB President Ary Graça presents the tournament MVP award to USA's Kim Hill.  Photo: FIVB

This isn't the first time we've heard about these LED nets.  At the Men's World Championships in Poland last month, there was one on display in the VIP area and President Graça was speaking highly of it.  A news item was posted to the Poland 2014 Men's World Championships website discussing the LED nets further: 

Innovation led the way as the FIVB hospitality area provided guests with an opportunity to see some interesting technological innovations which the FIVB is spearheading.

The first of these was the LED net, which has been in production since 2013. The FIVB is aiming to be the first sport to use such technology in a competition format, leading the sport to new technological frontiers. In the future, it is hoped that the technology will be used to display live scores, refereeing decisions, instant displays, fan messages and much more.
— FIVB News Release

What do they look like?

So what does this net look like?  I like technology and I wanna see this thing.  The problem is that neither yesterday's press release nor this September post from the FIVB show any images of the net.  Everyone seems to be speaking very highly of it, don't you want to show it off?  We had to do a little searching online before we found any pictures of it.  We only found two decent ones and here they are.

It's Ugly

This traffic sign looks better than the FIVB LED net.  Photo: lightwell.cc

This traffic sign looks better than the FIVB LED net.  Photo: lightwell.cc

I was shocked when I first saw these photos.  This couldn't be the awesome new revolutionary net they were talking about, right?  Is this a joke?  It looks like something that was created in the 1980s.  It looks like a traffic sign that is warning me about upcoming construction.  A Google image search reveals that, in fact, traffic signs look better then this net.

This is when I started getting confused.  The article in September says that the net has "been in production since 2013".  Are you kidding me?  Almost two years of production and all you've done is strung a matrix of LEDs into an existing FIVB regulation net?

I know a lot about this technology both from the hardware and software side.  I'm very familiar with what it takes to capture, parse and display information like this.  This is the best they can do?  I understand that you have to respect the existing mesh and can't go crazy dense with LEDs, but then why do it on the net at all?

It's Bad for The Game

Today, sports are trying to utilize technology and social media to enhance their presentation.  That's fine, but don't do it in a way that affects the gameplay.  At the end of the day this thing still needs to be a net for the sport of volleyball, don't screw that up by lacing it with glowing lights.

As mentioned above, "In the future, it is hoped that the technology will be used to display live scores, refereeing decisions, instant displays, fan messages and much more."

Do we really need this?

Scoreboards display the score better than any low res net can.  Referee calls are very visible and often confirmed by an announcer.  Fan messages and integrating social media is a good idea but this great potential will be wasted if they use it on a display with this low of a resolution.

What about viewing angle?  Anyone sitting anywhere near centre won't be able to read anything on the net because they're sitting at too sharp of an angle.  (If the viewing angle of this net single handedly changes the way volleyball is broadcasted and we finally get a master camera angle from the end-line, it might be a necessary evil.)

I'm sure the players are super excited for lots of bright flashing lights to start going crazy in-between every point. 

It's Not For The Fans

President Ary Graça emphasized that this creation is for the fans.  As a fan of volleyball, I call bullshit.  This is just another place you can eventually sell advertising.

If you want to have a screen that can display information like this, why not use the screens they had at World Championships?

They border the entire court, and are visible from all locations in the stadium.  They are much higher resolution and give you a lot more canvas space to work with when displaying the content.  Most importantly, they do not interfere with the game on the court.

Here's an example of one from the 2014 FIVB Women's World Championships in Italy.

Here's an example of one from the 2014 FIVB Women's World Championships in Italy.

Great Idea, Horrible Execution

There's nothing wrong with this idea,  DO NOT do it on this net like this.  Do it properly.  Make a solution that: everyone can see, looks good and most importantly, doesn't affect the game on the court.