AIs could soon be used as referees

Will referees soon be supported by AI or vice versa?  (Image: Unsplash - Nathan Shively)

Will referees soon be supported by AI or vice versa? (Image: Unsplash – Nathan Shively)

Anyone who has ever followed a sporting event, be it Bundesliga soccer, basketball world championships or European handball championships, knows: Referees are only human. Accordingly, they make mistakes that can be detrimental to one of the parties involved.

This can lead to devastating results at crucial moments. For example, remember this 1982 World Cup semifinals. Germany’s Toni Schumacher crashes into Patrick Battiston so hard that he loses two teeth and briefly loses consciousness. The referee didn’t intervene at all.

That wrong decisions (unfortunately) are part of sportalso knows the American developer Ayush Pai, who posted a video on Reddit in which he briefly shows which project he is currently working on.

He is developing an AI that acts as a referee for basketball games. It is intended to support referees live in their decisions. In the future, this would also be conceivable for other sports.

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More insight than anyone?

Among other things, Pai used simple methods such as color recognition and pedometers to train the AI ​​on the rules of basketball.

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One of the biggest problems was spotting the ball, as he explains in a video. The changing lighting conditions and ball colors threw a spanner in the works. Instead, he taught a machine learning architecture (YoloV8) to recognize balls.

The AI ​​recognizes the player and the ball while also indicating how likely it is that it is correct.  For example, in the top left frame, the AI ​​is only 15 percent sure it's a player.  Fortunately.  (Image: YouTube - Ayush Pai)






The AI ​​recognizes the player and the ball while also indicating how likely it is that it is correct. For example, in the top left frame, the AI ​​is only 15 percent sure it’s a player. Fortunately. (Image: YouTube – Ayush Pai)

In contrast to comparable systems, this architecture checks a frame only once and shows which object is in the picture with what probability. So players and balls can be recognized.

To detect rule violations, such as traveling (a player takes too many steps with the ball in hand), he has a technique called Pose Estimation used. This allows body parts to be recognized and tracked in real time. Many rule violations can be detected in this way.

Link to YouTube content

AI referee for football & Co.?

Even though Ayush Pai is working on an AI referee for basketball, we assume that this idea will spread to other sports if the idea is well received by the respective institutes and clubs.

Many rules or violations of rules could be recognized and banned using the same techniques.

The only question that remains is whether and how quickly this will become established in the future. The AI’s susceptibility to errors should also be kept in mind, because these applications are not perfect either.

However, the young man from Florida is certain that his idea has future potential and, according to his own statement, will continue to work on the project.

“In the NBA, as in many other professional sports, there are many controversial moments where referee decisions can affect the outcome of games. The replacement of human referees is not necessarily practical or even desirable. The development of AI systems […] could, however, offer a valuable solution. […] Version 3 is already in the works.«

– YouTube: Ayush Pai

What do you think of the idea of ​​supporting or maybe even replacing referees with AI in the future? Write us your opinion in the comments!

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