Pieces of Pittsburgh are on the pitch in Brazil

Bayer MaterialScience helped make official World Cup ball

Bayer MaterialScience in Robinson contributed to the creation of the specially designed 2014 FIFA World Cup match ball — one of a number of innovations seen at the games in Brazil that include disappearing spray paint designed to keep players in line, referee watches that vibrate when a goal is scored, and 4-K Ultra-High Definition broadcasting.

Every four years, the tournament places a global spotlight on a handful of soccer pitches, effectively creating a prime testing ground and advertising opportunity for sports and entertainment tech producers. In 2010, a subsidiary of a Swiss sports marketing company introduced the world to 3-D sports broadcasting. The South African tournament also featured an Adidas soccer ball, the Jabulani, with a grip n’groove texture that claimed to enable optimal control.

The official match ball of this year‘‍s World Cup — called the Brazuca — has been manufactured by Adidas using specialty plastics produced by Bayer MaterialScience, a subsidiary of German chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG.

Unlike a conventional soccer ball of 32 panels or the Jabulani ball of eight, the Brazuca is formed by a mere six faces. The smaller number of panels serves the double-pronged purpose of reducing the number of seams that might absorb the notorious Amazonian moisture, and providing superior aerodynamics.

The materials produced by Bayer MaterialScience are also being incorporated into FIFA stadiums, footwear soles and national uniform kits — some of which include micro-massaging tape designed by Puma to maximize performance.

Another technological innovation that separates the 2014 World Cup from that of 2010 is the 9-15 Vanishing Spray, produced by 915 Fair Play Limit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The biodegradable white spray paint is being used by referees to mark the 10-yard line past which defenders cannot step when an attacking free-kick is taken. It fades in under 60 seconds.

The most celebrated upgrade of 2014, however, is goal line technology developed by GoalControl GmbH, a German specialist for real-time image analysis in sports events.

Using 14 cameras mounted on the roofs and catwalks of stadiums, GoalControl-4D tracks the trajectory of match balls to within one-fifth of an inch. Less than one second after the ball crosses the goal line, a vibration and optical signal are sent to watches worn by the referees, ensuring that inaccurate assessments are avoided.

Soccer players are also benefiting from technological advances when they are off the field. Members of England’s national team have been equipped with Apple iPads that contain personal data and video footage of opposing players, allowing for more nuanced strategizing before each match.

Players and viewers alike can engage with each other like never before through the “Twitterwall,” installed by the German Football Federation at the Germany team’s hotel in Porto Seguro, Brazil. The hotel wall features television screens displaying supportive messages from tweeters that use the hashtag #aneurerseite — German for “on your side.”

Soccer aficionados are being drawn into the tournament through matches available in 4K on Globosat’s SporTV channel. The 4K Ultra-High Definition broadcasting — which captures imagery in four times the resolution of HDTV — is the product of a partnership between Sony Corp. and the FIFA Federation, rendering the 2014 World Cup the first tournament to be partly broadcast in the new TV format.

Perhaps the most transformative advance in the viewing experience is the Twitter “heat map” featured on the FIFA website. This world map — which tracks tweets mentioning key World Cup terms in real time — reveals when and where feverish soccer fans are posting their reactions to matches.

“The sentiment was particularly intense for the U.S.-Portugal game,” says Priya Narasimhan, founder and CEO of mobile sports apps company YinzCam Inc. on the South Side. The Monday game set the record for the most-viewed soccer match on any U.S. network, and was the subject of over 8 million tweets worldwide.

“After each goal, the two countries would just come to life on that map,” says Ms. Narasimhan, a longtime soccer fan. “It gives you goose bumps.”

To tune in to this visual representation of tweeting FIFA fans across the globe, visit www.fifa.com/​worldcup/​social/​index.html.

Rocio Labrador: rlabrador@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1370.

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