FIFA tracks players’ bodies using AI to conduct offside conversations at 2022 World Cup

FIFA, the international governing body of football associations,* has announced that it will use AI-powered cameras to assist referees with offside calls during the 2022 World Cup.

The semi-automatic system consists of a sensor in the ball that transmits its position on the pitch 500 times per second, and 12 tracking cameras mounted under the roof of stadiums that use machine learning to track 29 points in players’ bodies.

Software will combine this data to generate automated warnings when players commit offside offenses (that is, when they are closer to the opposing team’s goal than their penultimate opponent and receive the ball). Warnings are sent to officials in a nearby control room, who validate the decision and tell referees on the field what call to make.

FIFA claims that this process “will happen in seconds and means offside decisions can be made faster and more accurately.” The data generated by the cameras and the ball will also be used to create automated animations, which can be played on screens in the stadium and in TV broadcasts “to inform all spectators as clearly as possible” why the call is made. done.

It is the latest example of sport embracing automated technology to help referees make decisions. FIFA previously introduced VAR, or the Video Assistant Referee, which allows referees to review decisions using sideline monitors, at the 2018 World Cup.

In a press statement, Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referee Committee, said the new system would allow officials to make “faster and more accurate decisions”, but emphasized that humans – not “robots” – are still in charge of the game. .

“I know someone called it ‘robot offside’; it isn’t,’ said Collina. “The umpires and assistant referees are still responsible for the decision on the field of play.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing to bring the very best to teams, players and fans. […] and FIFA is proud of this work as we look forward to seeing the world see the benefits of semi-automatic offside technology during the FIFA World Cup 2022.”

An important part of the system is an inertial unit of measurement (IMU) sensor, placed in the official Al Rihla ball, which transmits its location on the field 500 times per second.
Image: FIFA

The 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar, making it the first World Cup ever to be held in an Arab country. To compensate for the heat in Qatar, the tournament will be held from November to December instead of summer, as is traditional.

The decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has been fiercely criticized. An investigation by the United States Department of Justice found that: top FIFA officials were bribed to award the tournament to the Arab country (barely beating the US to secure the hosting rights).

Numerous investigations by organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the guard also found that Qatar’s stadiums were built by migrant workers who are essentially slaves? — their passports confiscated and their salaries suspended. A 2021 study found that: at least 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar due to extreme working conditions (such as lack of access to water) since the country won the World Cup in 2010.

The first four games of the 2022 World Cup will be played on November 21and include England vs Iran and USA vs Wales (all teams in Group B).

*I work for an American company. I am a British writer. Calling it “association football” instead of “soccer” or “soccer” is an outcome that absolutely no one pleases – in other words, a compromise.

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