LAS VEGAS — Sports stars, meet the geeks.
The CES show floor turned into a bit a sports arena Wednesday, where we spotted (and followed) three legendary sports stars in the course of 10 minutes.
There was baseball start Alex Rodriguez checking out the smart socks from Seattle-based Sensoria, and getting a demo of FitBit technology.
Moments earlier Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. — “The Iron Man” baseball player who played 2,632 consecutive games for the Baltimore Orioles — chatted about baseball and data in the Under Armour booth, alongside Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants.
The most recognizable of the bunch — at 7-foot-1-inches, and perhaps even taller with a fashionable black top hat on his head — strutted through the main halls of CES with a large entourage in tow. Shaq shook hands, and cast an imposing presence on the CES floor, whose halls and exhibits almost made the former NBA MVP look small.
In addition, sportscaster Sage Steele — host of NBA Countdown on ESPN and ABC — and former NFL star Tony Gonzalez also were spotted.
It was certainly fun seeing the sports stars, but their presence was not just happenstance. One of the big trends at this year’s CES is the collision of sports and technology, best represented on Tuesday night when Intel CEO Brian Krzanich spent nearly half of his keynote talking about sports and fitness applications.
Perhaps the biggest driver of this intersection is the access to data. You can measure just about anything in sports these days, from how high a player jumps to the speed of a mountain bike as it makes a jump to the force of collision on the football field.
Players, coaches and front offices are swimming in data, trying to make it sense of it in order to get a leg up.
In his talk at the Under Armour booth, Cal Ripken Jr. said athletes need to be “wary” of all of the data available, though he quickly admitted that he would have loved to have access the data players have now when he played.
Ripken then turned to Posey, and asked the catcher how he uses data today.
“It has been a process for me, learning what’s most useful for me,” said Posey. “Because, I think, initially I took in too much initially…. You kind of learn the useful information, and what helps you the most…. You also got to have instincts, because we are going against the best players in the world. And just because this piece of paper says that they have done this 50 times in a row, they might come out and do something completely different their first at bat. So, you have to be willing to adjust. You can’t get stuck by just what the numbers say, even though the numbers are a great place to start.”