How artificial intelligence will help keep time at the Tokyo Olympics


“In the field of volleyball, we now use cameras with computer vision technology to track players and the ball,” said Alain Zobrist, head of Omega Timing. “So this is a combination of our use of camera technology and artificial intelligence to do this.”

According to Zobrist, the R&D department of Omega Timing consists of 180 engineers. The development process starts with the internal positioning system and motion sensor system. According to Zobrist, the goal in 2012 is to reach such a level that 500 Omega can provide information on athlete performance. Detailed real-time data. During the event, this data must also be measured, processed, and transmitted in less than a tenth of a second so that the information matches what the viewer sees on the screen.

For beach volleyball, this means using this positioning and movement technology and training artificial intelligence to recognize countless types of shots—from spikes to blocks to spikes and their changes—as well as the type of pass and the flight path of the ball. This data is then combined with information to collect from the gyroscope sensor in the player’s clothing. These motion sensors let the system know the direction of the athlete’s movement, as well as the height and speed of the jump. Once processed, the information will be provided to broadcasters in real time for commentary or screen graphics.

According to Zobrist, the hardest lesson for AI to learn is to accurately track the ball in the game when the camera cannot see the ball. “Sometimes it gets covered by the athlete’s body parts. Sometimes it goes beyond the TV screen,” he said. “So, the challenge is to track the ball when you lose it. Let the software predict the whereabouts of the ball, and then, when it reappears, recalculate the difference between the time it lost and retrieved the object, and fill in [missing] Data, and then automatically continue. This is one of the biggest problems. “

It is this tracking of the ball that is essential for the AI ​​to determine what happened during the game. “When you can track the ball, you will know where it is and when it changes direction. Combined with the sensors on the athlete, the algorithm will recognize the shot,” Zobrist said. “Whether it is a block or a smash. You will know which team and which player it is. Therefore, it is the combination of these two techniques that allows us to accurately measure the data.”

Omega Timing claims that its beach volleyball system has an accuracy rate of 99%, thanks to sensors and multiple cameras running at 250 frames per second. However, Toby Breckon, a professor of computer vision and image processing at Durham University, is interested to see if this holds up during the Olympics — and, crucially, whether the system is affected by race and gender. The difference is fooled.

“The work that has been done is quite impressive. And you need a large data set to train the artificial intelligence to handle all the different actions,” Brecken said. “But one of the things is accuracy. In terms of these different actions, how often does it go wrong? How often does it lose track of the ball? And if it is consistent for all races and genders. For example, the accuracy of the American women’s team Is 99% and The 99% accuracy rate of the Ghanaian women’s team? “

Zobrist was confident and explained that while it might be easier to call Google or IBM to provide the AI ​​expertise needed, it was not an option for Omega. “Whether it is a scoring sport or a timed sport, it is extremely important that we cannot make a difference between the interpretation of performance and the final result,” he said. “So in order to protect the integrity of the results, we cannot rely on another company. We need expertise to interpret the results and how the athletes got there.”

As for future timing and tracking upgrades, Zobrist is tight-lipped, but said that the 2024 Paris Olympics will be the key. “You will see a series of new innovations. Of course, it will still revolve around timing, scoring, and of course motion sensors and positioning systems. “Of course, there will be Los Angeles in 2028. We have some very interesting projects, in fact we are just getting started. “

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