- Major League Baseball teams are working with a Californian security company called Airspace to implement camera systems in stadiums that could monitor mask-wearing among fans.
- The system can also spot incorrect mask usage, such as failing to cover noses.
- Professional athletes across the globe have played to empty stadiums in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Major League Baseball teams are preparing for the day that fans return by investing in technology that would monitor mask-wearing in stadiums.
The software, developed by a Californian company called Airspace, analyzes video footage to check for masks with more than 80% accuracy. The program can even spot improper usage, such as failing to cover a nose or wearing masks around chins.
Although professional athletes are currently playing to empty stadiums, and MLB teams have not announced any plans to reopen just yet, the move indicates that they are considering their options.
News of the partnership between Airspace and MLB teams was first reported by Bloomberg.
Across the country, establishments from restaurants to libraries have grappled with what it means to “safely reopen,” as COVID-19 continues to roil the population. Mask-wearing has been a contentious part of the conversation.
In Washington, politicians have flip-flopped their stances on masks. In supermarkets, mask-compliance has sparked stand-offs between customers and employees. In July, a French bus driver was beaten to death by passengers that refused to wear masks.
Airspace CEO Jaz Banga wants to use mask-monitoring technology to nudge people to wear masks, so that humans don’t have to.
“People confronting others about masks, it’s a tinderbox,” Banga said in an interview with Business Insider. “You don’t know how people are going to react. You can’t have people doing it. It has to be machines.”
Though Banga is tight-lipped about how exactly MLB teams will use the software, he sees myriad opportunities to shape human behavior. Banga imagines office buildings in which elevator doors only open for employees wearing masks, or turnstiles that scan for appropriate face coverings.
“What do we like more than anything else as Americans? Convenience,” Banga told us. “If we make it inconvenient to not wear a mask, we make it compliant.”
The Major League baseball season returned in late July. Although the stands remained empty and teams committed to testing players regularly, the league planned for the season to go on as normal. Since then, multiple teams have had COVID-19 outbreaks. The Miami Marlins has had 21 players test positive as of July 31. Ten players and seven staff members of the St. Louis Cardinals also tested positive this week, according to CNN.
Many are considering the virus surge a wake-up call for the MLB, which chose not to institute a quarantine “bubble” for players like the National Basketball Association. In the wake of the reported cases, the MLB did institute stricter guidelines, such as requiring teammates and staff to wear masks while traveling, and put restrictions on meetings between players and staff.
The setbacks don’t bode well for a return for fans. For now, the cardboard cutouts of spectators are the only fans filling seats.