Mar 28, 2024 - Sports

Astros debut facial recognition entry at Minute Maid Park

Astros fans wearing orange and white cheer on the team in the stands

Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Astros will use facial recognition technology to help fans get into Minute Maid Park faster starting with Thursday's season opener against the New York Yankees.

The big picture: The use of facial recognition and biometric data has exploded in recent years, including in police surveillance and at retail stores and sports venues across the country.

  • Now it's landed at Houston's downtown ballpark. The reigning American League West champions are one of only four teams using Major League Baseball's new Go-Ahead Entry this season.

Catch up quick: MLB launched a pilot program for Go-Ahead Entry at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park in the middle of the 2023 season.

How it works: Fans have to opt in to use the feature.

  • Ticket holders take a selfie in the MLB Ballpark app that will be used to compare their face at special biometric-scanning kiosks at the center field, left field, right field, home plate and south home plate gates.
  • Once the tech recognizes the ticket holder's face, their tickets are validated and they can enter the park.

The intrigue: MLB says the selfie is given a numerical token, which is what the face-scanning kiosks use to confirm the ticket holder's identity.

Yes, but: While data collection is a major part of the decision-making process to use the tech, its accuracy is also part of the question.

  • A 2020 Harvard University study found that while 90% of facial scans were accurate, systems incorrectly identified those who were Black, female, and between 18 and 30 years old the most.

What they're saying: "We are always looking for ways to improve our fan experience at Minute Maid Park," Astros senior vice president of business operations Marcel Braithwaite said in a statement.

  • "The addition of this technology provides a way for our fans to have a more streamlined way to enter the stadium, adding to a better ballpark experience."

💭 Jay's thought bubble: I happily use my face to open my iPhone and my fingerprint to unlock my computer — but I fall short of jumping at every latest and greatest advance in biometric technology.

  • With the promises and policies of MLB's Go-Ahead Entry, I will be skeptically interested in trying it out once I make it to a game this season.

If you go: Tickets to Thursday's home opener are still available, starting at $290.

  • Tickets to the rest of the games in the opening series start at $35.
  • Thursday's and Sunday's games will be broadcast on the Space City Home Network. Friday night's matchup will appear on AppleTV+, and Saturday's game will be on Fox.
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