Technologies? No, thanks. It’s a matter of time

In my Human eye vs. “Hawk-Eye” post last week I gave an example of a technology that is used in tennis when there is doubt about a ball having dropped down on the line or outside the field. It will provide us with an animated video showing with a 3-6mm accuracy where the ball hit the ground. (more…)

Human eye vs. “Hawk-Eye”

When we started blogging, annehwr already introduced us to the topic of “the role of technologies being used in sports”. In her post she was also referring to the so called “Hawk-Eye” technology and she touched the debate on whether it is a good tool to be used or not.

Being a tennis player, sometimes I of course watch tennis matches and I follow the big tournaments broadcasted on television. But today I will not talk about the players and their play but about a very helpful tool used during first-elite level matches.

Pressure

Over the last decades, tennis sport has experienced a certain development: the equipment has changed, racquets are made from different materials than before and today there are played courts of artificial surfaces.  This all led to a faster play in general. Along with that there have emerged several cases of officials’ line calling that stirred up controversy. So, there has been increasing pressure from all different parts to adopt a system that will give assistance in line-calling.

Today I will give you the “tennis view” on the “Hawk-Eye” technology and in my next post I will give you a debate and an example of a sport that is not benefitting yet from such technology.

What is “Hawk-Eye” ?

Just to give you a quick understandable explanation: “Hawk-Eye” is a line calling system that works with high-speed cameras placed around the court. This system is recording from different angles the balls’ trajectory and can so compute a 3D image of the ball and the spot where it hit the ground.

It is not only about “in” or ‘’out’’

Jason Tsang writes in his blog about the additional use of the “Hawk-Eye” system apart from preventing the umpire of wrong line calls. He states that this tracking system also allows for statistics that can be also shown to the audience. Further he argues that even the players could benefit during the match from the stats displayed as they could adjust their play.

Opponents

Nevertheless, there are doubters of this technology. Most famous person in this context could be Roger Federer being cited: “A pure waste of money.”

It is to mention that according to Jason the system costs approximately $20,000 to $25,000 USD per week for one court.

Bloggers Anonymous and Geoff are challenging the accuracy of the technology as they are wondering about the balls’ compression and skid and the images proportionality. They claim that the images look as though the ball’s entire diameter always comes in contact with the court (as we can see a perfectly round and quite large imprint of the ball).

Jeff Walker adds that the “Hawk-Eye” system takes out the emotion of a match. He says that if we have had replay back then we would have never seen legendary tirades of players against umpires. He declares that this was definitely more entertaining than a computer spitting out a result.

Proponents

But there are a lot of people who are in favor of  “Hawk-Eye”. Jamea Jackson stated that she feels relieved as she is not wasting any more time on getting angry about wrong umpire decisions (and while being angry loosing points). And she disagreed on peoples’ opinion that the system throwing off the timing and the rhythm of the match.

So, to sum it up I think that James Blake gave a good statement on the use of the system as he argued that the speed of the ball sometimes just makes it impossible to see, even for trained people and that a simple replay can eliminate human error.

Obviously it is a good tool but just like Anonymous observes that the system is mostly only used on the center court (the ONE main court of a tournament) it advantages (only) top players as they can challenge line-calls in order to find out if the ball was in or out. I think there must be found a solution for the cost issue, otherwise this technology will instead of gaining representative value, loose it. All players competing in the same tournament should be given access to the same tools.

The Role of Technology in Sports

The Role of Technology in Sports

From early on sport has always been very important to humans. You can enjoy it either by playing or watching it but either way it is about winning or seeing someone (or some team) win. To be that winning one an athlete, his/her team, his/her sponsors and whoever might have an influence on the athlete’s career, will keep improving his/her condition, training methods and, very important, the equipment that is being used. And here comes a major conflict point in today’s sports: Until which point should technology be used in sports? And what is its role?

Technology as a part of society and sport – or not?

This blog I found, is from the sport and technology debate at the British science festival in 2011 and the videos of the speakers are very powerful. Professor Haake claims that sport and technology have always coexisted and that technology has always been a part of sports. It started with starting heels for the sprints at the Olympics, the sports equipment like a soccer ball, a lawn mower which promoted lawn sports and a timer, and ended (for now) with portable 3D cameras, high speed videos and mew materials like Titanium, to make sport equipment lighter.

According to Professor Haake sport and technology reflect society and those advancement should be allowed – at least up to a certain point. Dr. Parry, also participating in the debate, also claims that technology changes the sporting events into better ones but for him it is a question of which bits of technology WE want. The people want to see the best athlete and not the best equipment, which can turn the competition into an “unfair” game.

Technology as an unnecessary intervention into natural justice

And then there are the more concrete anti-technology opinions. M_Campbell23 states that decision reviews, video replays and goal-line technology ruin the spectacle of games, and reduce them to clinical, quasi-legal inquiries. The administrators always want to get everything right 100% of the time. This though takes the fun out of the game and up to this point sport had survived as the spectacle, which enthralls us without a sub-committee forming to discuss every contentious decision.

Furthermore the blog explains that what these legal guys will never understand is that sport embraces natural justice; their intervention is not necessary. But they stand behind the argument around “well you’ve got the technology there, doesn’t do any harm to use it”. But according to the author it does do harm.

Technology as a modern tool in sports

According to Lionjkt the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) can enhance the games themselves, secure ticketing and boost the quality of the in-stadium spectator experience. It can add value and visibility to different kinds of sporting events and can avoid bad offside decisions. But not only in soccer but also in other sports, like tennis, or marathon racing, RFID is used. It provides a very accurate timing of each athlete (as in the marathon racing) and also helpful video evidence when it comes to off decisions in tennis and similar sports (which are also enhanced by different methods like the Hawk-Eye line-calling system).

Hawk-Eye line-calling system

Technology in Sports – A Conflict in Society

Sport is very important to most of the people in our society, which makes the conflict about technology even more passionate. Some think that technology leads to better decisions and accuracy but on the other side people find themselves angry with all that technology that destroys the real competition that should be about what humans can do, and replaces it with a competition of “who has the better technology”. I think that up to a certain point technology helps to keep the game fair (in the case of offside decisions for example), but when it comes to the equipment the importance of technology should be limited.