Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Hawk Eye Technology

Technology has become an integral part of our lives. The use of technology in sports have also been increased. At first it was about broadcasting events worlwide.  But in the modern times technology is used to increase the fare-play in sports. Cricket has been one of the sports that uses technology extensively.  The first instance of using technology in cricket may be the third umpire concept which was first used in a test match in 1992. Although it was just a simple TV replay it helps a lot to take correct decisions on run outs and stumping and sometimes the legality of catches and to decide about boundaries.
But within the last few years more sophisticated technologies have been emerged and they are now been used in the game of cricket. One such technology is the hawk eye technology which is used in UDRS (Umpire Decision Review System).


Dr.Paul Hawkins
Hawk-Eye is a ball tracking system which is also used in other sports such as tennis. This technology is controlled by the Hawk-Eye Innovations Ltd which is a part of Sony Europe. Initially this was used as a broadcasting tool in cricket LBW decisions and now has become an important part in the decision making process in cricket matches.
The initial research for the Hawk-Eye technology began in 1999 by Dr.Paul Hawkins at Roke Manor Research Ltd. In the year 2001 channel 4 used this technology in broadcasting the Ashes series. In February 2002 this technology was first used in tennis broadcasting. In 2005 Hawk-Eye was permitted to be used as an officiating aid in tennis. This is mainly used to detect the line-calling decisions. In 2007 MCC world cricket committee announces that the Hawk-Eye will be used in the Decision Review System used in cricket.   In 2011 Hawk-Eye was used in a Cricket World Cup for the first time in history. Also there are plans to use Hawk-Eye in Soccer. This is still at the testing stages of FIFA and if the results are successful, this will be used in 2014 world cup.


Camera Placement in Tennis
The Hawk-Eye uses six high speed vision processing cameras positioned at different places in the ground along with two broadcast cameras to calculate the trajectory of the ball. Although there are 8 cameras available only 5 cameras are used depending on the side of the wicket that’s been used. In tennis there are around 10 cameras to track the ball. These cameras obtain a 3D visualization of the path of the ball after it’s been bowled. There will be two trajectories for each ball one for releasing the ball by the bowler up to pitching and another one for pitching the ball up to hitting the batsmen. Using this technology the speed of the ball, the swing of the ball from the bowler’s hand to the pitching point, the pitching point, the bounce of the ball, the spin or deviation of the ball can be obtained. Based on the second trajectory the expected path of the ball will be calculated and used to determine whether it will hit the stumps. This is widely used to decide LBW decisions.


Camera Placement in Cricket
When technology is used in a sport there will be three very important things to consider. First it should be accurate. Then it should be fast enough so that the momentum of the game is not lost due to technology and finally it should be economically and technically affordable to use in normal games.
Hawk-eye is financially feasible. It is a low cost solution which only needs several cameras and some computers to do the calculation. Since cameras will be always available in an international sporting event the installing cost is very low. Also the time taken to calculate the path of the ball is short but sometimes this may damage the momentum of the game. This is one reason that the number of challenges by the players against the normal decisions taken by umpires or referees is limited. In cricket this is two reviews per team in each inning. Also in tennis the player will get two incorrect challenges per and three challenges in a tie break.
But the problem with the Hawk-eye is its accuracy. Although in tennis they have proved that it has an accuracy of 3.6mm in line calling decisions Hawk-Eye has failed to obtain the trust among players, referees and the general public. Also there are few instances in cricket that the decision given by the hawk-eye system is different than what most of the people expected.