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  • Allan Padgett

Tour Tracker Tech #2 - Time Machine

Tour Tracker users might have noticed I make not-entirely-infrequent references to Time Machine, our feature that lets you rewind / play / fast-forward the app to any point in time. And I have to admit, it is my favorite feature in the app by far, so this tech article is about that.

What is Time Machine?

The idea behind Time Machine is that you should be able to go back in time and see exactly what was happening at any moment in the race. What was the GPS tracking system showing? What commentary had the reporter last posted? What were the standings at that moment? And then, naturally, you should be able to tell the app to "play" the race from that moment forward.

Why is Time Machine?

The original and still primary goal is to let users synchronize our race data with any tape-delayed video from the race. All of the exclusive live data and commentary available "as live" while you are watching the race, pausing and skipping forward as you wish. Originally the controls for "pausing and skipping forward" were minimal, but as of the 2020 TDF the apps have a video-player-like control bar with buttons to do just that.

Integrated Video Playback

And even cooler, when a Tour Tracker app has live video embedded in it - for example we provide the official TDF coverage for Australia and the United States - pausing and rewinding race video automatically rewinds the data for you. Or if you rewind the data using our UX, the video will adjust accordingly. It is pretty much magic.

I say "magic" but I have definitely spent more time (like thousands of hours) working on this feature that for years I had no idea if anyone at all was using. I was actually excited when I got my first email complaining about a bug in Time Machine. Someone was using it!

But let's get away from story telling and down to the details.

Enter, Control and Exit Time Machine

You can start Time Machine several ways:

  • On the mobile apps, select Time Machine from any stage's detail page. That brings up a page that lets you type in a distance to go (typically the easiest thing to see on a race video) and jump to that point in time. Voila.

  • Alternatively, tap any icon on a stage's map or profile, which brings up details about that climb, sprint, etc. That page will also have a Time Machine item that when selected, will bring up the "distance to go" page with the distance already filled in for the icon you selected. We actually start a little before the icon, assuming you want to see the last few minutes of a battle to the top of a climb or a sprint line.

  • On the web, you can just double-click anywhere on the stage profile or on the icons and jump to that point without typing in anything. You can also double click on any commentary post and it will take you back to that moment.

To control Time Machine:

  • On the mobile apps, the Time Machine control bar is always available at the bottom of the screen. Using that you can rewind - tapping once goes back 1km, holding your finger down will repeatedly go back - go forward, pause, restart and stop entirely.

  • You can also tap the distance to go to rotate what data is displayed there between distance to go, distance covered, time elapsed and the actual time of day.

  • Currently on the web, just double-click on the profile again to reset the time. Working on adding a control bar soon!

To exit Time Machine:

  • On the mobile apps, tap the stop button (a square) on the Time Machine control bar.

  • Alternatively go back to the "distance to go" page and tap Stop Replay.

  • On the web, an Exit Time Machine button shows up on the Profile view. Odd but true.

Cool Things To Do With Time Machine

  • Synchronize your video and our data to have an exclusive "as live" experience.

  • Relive any moment of race just using our amazing reporting and data feeds.

  • Hold down the fast forward button and see some cool things happen, including...

  • View the profile of the stage and watch the gaps grow and shrink throughout the day.

  • View the new virtual standings and see the exact time of day when the leader's jersey changed hands.

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