“In volleyball, we are now working with cameras with pc vision technologies to keep track of not only athletes, but also the ball,” claims Alain Zobrist, head of Omega Timing. “So it’s a blend in which we use camera technology and synthetic intelligence to do this.”

Omega Timing’s R&D department contains 180 engineers, and the progress process started off with positioning techniques and movement sensor techniques in-property, in accordance to Zobrist, in 2012. The target was to get to a stage where by, for various athletics at the 500-additionally sports activities situations it will work on each 12 months, Omega could provide comprehensive are living info on athlete performance. That info would also have to just take fewer than a tenth of a 2nd to be calculated, processed, and transmitted through occasions so that the data matches what viewers are seeing on display. 

With beach front volleyball, this meant getting this positioning and movement technological innovation and training an AI to realize myriad shot types—from smashes to blocks to spikes and variants thereof—and  pass styles, as well as the ball’s flight path, then incorporate this information with data gleaned from gyroscope sensors in the players clothes. These motion sensors allow the system know the way of movement of the athletes, as very well as top of jumps, pace, and many others. When processed, this is all then fed reside to broadcasters for use in commentary or on-monitor graphics.

In accordance to Zobrist, a single of the hardest classes for the AI to study was properly tracking the ball in perform when the cameras could no for a longer time see it. “Sometimes, it is coated by an athlete’s body component. In some cases it can be out of the Tv set frame,” he suggests. “So, the problem was to keep track of the ball when you have missing it. To have the program predict wherever the ball goes, and then, when it appears yet again, recalculate the hole from when it shed the object and bought it back, and fill in the [missing] data and then go on mechanically. That was the 1 of the most significant problems.”

It truly is this tracking of the ball that is vital for the AI to figure out what is taking place through perform. “When you can monitor the ball, you will know where it was found and when it modified way. And with the blend of the sensors on the athletes, the algorithm will then understand the shot,” Zobrist suggests. “Whether it was a block or a smash. You will know which team and which participant it was. So it can be this mixture of the two systems that enables us to be precise in the measurement of the info.”

Omega Timing statements its seashore volleyball procedure is 99 p.c precise, many thanks to the sensors and various cameras running at 250 frames a second. Toby Breckon, professor in personal computer vision and graphic processing at Durham College, nevertheless, is intrigued to see if this stands up through the Games—and, crucially, if the method is fooled by variations in race and gender. 

“What has been completed is reasonably amazing. And you would have to have a significant data established to prepare an AI on all the distinct moves,” Breckon says. “But just one of the issues is precision. How normally does it get it improper in conditions of those people distinct moves? How typically does it drop keep track of of the ball? And also if it works uniformly around all races and genders. Is that 99 percent accuracy on, say, the United states of america women’s staff and 99 percent accuracy on the Ghanaian women’s group?”

Zobrist is confident, and points out that though it may perhaps have been less complicated to get in touch with in Google or IBM to provide the AI know-how essential, this was not an selection for Omega. “What is incredibly essential, whether or not it is really for a scoring sport, or timing activity, is that we won’t be able to have discrepancies amongst the explanation of the performance and the ultimate result,” he says. “So to safeguard the integrity of the end result, we simply cannot depend on a further organization. We require to have the know-how to be capable to make clear the consequence and how the athletes got there.”

As for long run timing and tracking updates, Zobrist is tight-lipped, but states the Paris Online games in 2024 will be key. “You will see a full new set of improvements. Of system, it will remain close to timekeeping, scoring, and absolutely also about motion sensors and positioning techniques. And certainly also Los Angeles in 2028. We have received some really appealing projects for there that actually we have only just started out.”


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