The international governing body of association football, FIFA has unveiled a new semi-automated system to help referees make offside calls at World Cup 2022 in Qatar. This artificial intelligence (AI) consists of an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor, placed inside the official World Cup ball named ‘Al Rihla’ (The Journey). The New FIFA AI comes as a replacement for the controversial VAR (video assistance referee) system which allows officials to review offside decisions on monitors. Offside is a violation of FIFA’s rules which happens when a player receiving the pass is positioned closer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the last defender.
How Does New FIFA AI Work?
The IMU sensor embedded inside the ball transmits its exact position on the field 500 times a second. There are 12 tracking cameras installed on the roof of stadiums which use machine learning to track players’ limbs by marking 29 points in their bodies at 50 frames per second. FIFA officials believe that it will lead to quicker, clearer, and faster decisions at crucial moments in the game. FIFA AI combines the data collected from the field to generate automated alerts whenever players commit offside. These alerts are then sent to the control room, where officials validate the decision and guide referees about the correct call. Here is a graphical representation of the technology to help understand it better.
FIFA believes that this technology is the perfect solution to redeem itself from the VAR controversy. When unable to decide on the field, referees use VAR to check whether the player is offside or not. But, in case of a close call, VAR marks the offside line to check if a player’s limb is crossing that line. This often angers the crowd, resulting in criticism of the VAR system. However, with the new system, the cameras and the ball will use collected data to create automated animations. Then it will play on stadium screens and live TV to inform the spectators “in the clearest possible way” why it made that decision.
Are Robots Taking Over Football?
Speculation surrounding the new FIFA AI involved spectators concerned about robots taking over the game. Legendary match official and currently the chairman of FIFA Referees Committee, Pierluigi Collina backed the new system. He said the technology was meant to remove indecision from the football field. It will allow the referees to make decisions quickly and accurately, which also means that human officials will remain largely responsible for the final call.
Before the large-scale implementation at Qatar World Cup, FIFA ran successful trials of its AI at the Club World Cup and the Arab Cup. According to reports, various universities worldwide also reviewed the system independently.
FIFA World Cup in Qatar
FIFA AI will debut at the World Cup 2022 taking place in Qatar. It is the first time an Arab country is hosting the biggest international tournament. To address the scorching heat in Qatar, the association has decided to hold the games at the end of the year from November to December.
The decision to host the World Cup in a country like Qatar has faced a lot of criticism. United States Department of Justice accused FIFA of taking bribes from the Arab country in order to give them hosting rights. Independent investigation by the UK media also found that migrant workers treated as “slave labour” built Qatar’s stadiums. The report revealed that more than 6,500 migrant workers from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal have died in Qatar since the country won the right to host FIFA World Cup 10 years ago. Moreover, the LGBT community has also decided not to attend World Cup in Qatar because homosexuality is illegal there.