Hawk-Eye,The Line-Calling Sports Camera, Might Not Be As Accurate As We All Thought

But is it great at boats?

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Today we learned two things: one, that the device used to make line-calls in tennis is very appropriately called “Hawk-Eye.” Two, it’s probably made a whole bunch of bad calls that we weren’t aware of until just now. Whoops. Sorry, Barton. How ’bout we give you, like, an extra ten seconds of screen time in Avengers 2 instead to make up for it?

According to The Conversation, an academic news outlet from Australia, Hawk-Eye is a “reconstructed tracking device” that uses a number of different TV cameras placed around a stadium to record the position of the ball in each frame and then recreate the exact trajectory that the ball is taking to determine whether or not it’s over the line. Like we said, this makes it particularly great for tennis — and for “LBW” (leg before wicket) decisions in cricket, apparently. We know even less about cricket than we do about most sports, so we are just gonna take everybody else’s word for it here.

Of course, the device is at its best when its correcting bad calls made by dumb human referees. But when it’s used for those hairs breadth decision, where a single millimeter can determine whether a game is won or lost, it’s apparently not so great, because it can’t actually track the ball to a millimeter; as a result, balls that are in the line might accidentally be called out and vice versa.

The Conversation explains further:

Hawk-Eye itself used to claim an average error of 3.6 millimetres; more recently it claims this has been improved to average of 2.2mms. However, particularly in tennis, the reliance on this technology to provide a definitive call means that this margin of error isn’t reflected in the replays, leading most fans to assume it is 100% accurate.

Unfortunately the company that makes Hawk-Eye stopped their research before it got anywhere completely conclusive, and their founder Paul Hawkins is quoted as saying that the discussion itself was “typical of people who spent a lot of time in universities rather than on the tennis circuit.” Well, yeah, duh. Tennis is awesome, but it’s hard to solve equations and stuff when there are balls flying at your face.

No word on how Hawk-Eye is with other accuracy-based like athletic activities, oh, say, archery. But if we were gonna take a guess, we would probably say that gosh, it sure loves arrows.

(via PhysOrg and The Conversation, image via Marvel)

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