3D camera technology will reduce disputes in sports refereeing

3D camera technology will reduce disputes in sports refereeing


It is well known that the arrival of Hawk-eye technology in sport has managed to restore order within the field of play for both the athletes and the coaching staff. Currently this technology is applied on tennis courts and soccer football, however baseball and basketball sports await their turn to obtain results on their own courts. The Thomas & Mack Center pavilion in Las Vegas already has 14 Hawk-eye cameras in charge of following the ball and the players. The short-term objective is to help the refereeing staff to reset the shot clock after the ball hits the ring and to stop the game clock.

Tom Ryan, director of technology and innovation for NBA basketball told the US media; “We feel pretty confident about automating the league in the next 12 to 18 months.” One of the benefits of Hawk-eye technology in this sport is clearly deciding who was the last player to make contact with the ball before leaving the court. Currently there is a system called Second Spectrum which works as a data collector for the team and a bridge of interaction between the spectator and the league. The goal of Second Spectrum was never to track the ball for play analysis, so a new responsible approach is needed to ensure decision-making by the refereeing body.

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Luke Bornn, co-founder of Zelus Analytics and former director of the Sacramento Kings’ technology department, showed interest in Hawk-eye testing in the NBA. “Because of the pose data, we’re going to have a lot of finer information, probably within a practice facility around shooting mechanics,” he commented. In August 2021, the WNBA (Women National Basketball League) carried out pilot tests regarding the behavior of the Hawk-eye on the court and its processing capacity in the face of burst sport. Initial testing was done during the Commissioner’s Cup, the broadcast included data on how Seattle’s Breanna Stewart led her team in the distance covered and her teammate Katie Lou Samuelson had the fastest acceleration in the game.

Due to NBA policies, portable devices are not allowed on the court, making it difficult to install the Hawk-eye infrastructure for league games. Ryan proposes the use of a hybrid between wired and wireless devices in order to ensure data capture without inconvenience to referees and players.

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At the moment the Hawk-Eye remains in the testing phase, however the test results have been convincing enough to continue with any type of test. Eradicating refereeing discussions in sport is the goal of the NBA and the Hawk-eye, “we try to be a fundamental part of the workflow from a data perspective,” says Ryan.