Artificial intelligence at the service of offside detection

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Despite the generalization of VAR (video assistance), offside remains the main point of contention in football. In France, England or in international competitions everything is now played out to the millimeter and the cameras often penalize attackers for a shoe size… In front of the small screen we discover the reasons for the whistle, but in the stands and on the field it is it often frustrating.

theater of the next football World Cup At the end of the year, Qatar will inaugurate the technology known as semi-automatic » Offside detection. The goal: to support referees in deciding offside situations faster and more consistently. As a general rule, avoid walking through the OB truck and wasting several minutes deciding whether or not there is an offside.

A sensor in the ball

Confirmed by the MIT SportsLabThe TRACK team from the University of Victoria and a research team from the Zurich Polytechnic (ETH), this new technology uses 12 cameras that are under the roof of the stadium to track the ball and each player (up to 29 data points checked 50 times per second), pinpointing their precise position on the pitch. The 29 data points checked include the extremities (head, feet, hands…) and the relevant limbs (arms, legs) for offside analysis.

To go even further, the FIFA announces that the Al Rihla, the official ball Adidas, will be equipped with one sensor unit of inertial measurement (IMU). This sensor, placed in the center of the ball, sends data to the observation room 500 times per second, allowing for a very accurate capture of the exact moment the ball is played. As a reminder, offside is defined by the exit of the ball and thus by the gesture of the passer-by.

A human affirmation

By combining data from the ball and players, and using artificial intelligence, the new technology automatically sends an offside alert to the video referees whenever the ball is received by an attacker who was in an offside position when the ball was played by a team-mate.

Before the referee is informed on the field, the video referees validate the proposed decision by manually checking the automatically determined timing of the pass and the automatically generated offside line. This process takes only a few seconds and allows faster and more accurate decisions in offside situations.

After confirmation of the decision by the video referees and the on-field referee, the data used for the decision-making is translated into a 3D animation that accurately represents the position of the players’ limbs at the moment of the ball game. This 3D animatedshown from the best possible angle and similar to what has already been done with the goal-line technologyis then broadcast on the stadium’s giant screens and made available to the television stations.

Football: towards computer-assisted arbitration

From November 30th, FIFA will use the Arab Cup in Qatar to test semi-automatic offside referees. About ten cameras are dedicated movements player and application decides whether or not the player is offside when his teammate passes. A technology that could be generalized to all championships.

Posted on November 30, 2021 by Fabrice Auclert

Every weekend he causes controversy and injustice at football stadiums around the world. The offside rule, already complex, became increasingly complicated to finish, and now everything is accurate to the centimetre! And since every decision has major sporting and economic interests behind it, Fifa and the various international associations use the latest technologies to limit errors as much as possible.

Certainly, video arbitration has been generalized for a number of years, but still does not prevent misjudgments, since it is theEye The person behind their screens who determines whether there is an offside or not and transmits the information to the referees on the field of play.

A life-size test a year after the World Cup

In order to find the best possible solution, Fifa will test a semi-automated systemdeveloped in particular with engineers of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but also from the Universities of Melbourne and Zurich. The comprehensive test will take place starting today during the Arab Cup, which is being held in Qatar. A competition not chosen by chance as it is a real dress rehearsal ahead of the 2022 World Cup, which will take place at the same times in the same stadiums in a year’s time.

This technology is based on 10 to 12 cameras placed under the stadium roof and has already been tested in Europe in Germany, Spain and England. These cameras track 29 data points per player, 50 times per second. They make it possible to align the pitch and see in real time the exit of the ball in relation to the positions of the attackers. A 3D mesh, since the rules state that ” A player is offside when any part of his head, torso or legs is in his opponent’s half of the pitch (excluding the halfway line) and closer to his opponent’s goal line than the ball and the penultimate opponent..

Transfer data in near real time

Previously we were content to look at the player’s feet, now we have to consider his head or torso and the human eye is no longer sufficient to better assess the attacker’s position. In fact, the cameras allow lines to be drawn on the pitch, one for the attacker at the moment of kick-off Bullet, and the others represent the defenders. It’s a bit the same principle as a photo finish in a race.athletics.

According to Fifa, the collected data is transmitted to the video assistance cell for arbitration (VAR) almost in real time. There is now a dedicated offside referee who gives his opinion to the match referee in a matter of seconds. The latter decides whether the player marked offside was involved in the action or not.

Technology is very important and useful in both pre-game preparation and in-game decision making.” explains Pierluigi Collina, Referee legend, now head of refereeing at Fifa. ” In an offside situation, the decision is made after analyzing not only the position of the players but also their involvement in the movement. Technology – today or tomorrow – can draw a line, but evaluation does interference with game or with an opponent remains in the hands of the referee. »

That is, in contrast to the Goal-Line Technologyto determine if a ball has crossed the goal line, the referee still has the final say. Whether the two touch arbiters will still be useful in the years to come remains to be seen…

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