Technology and sport already have a rather contrasting relationship. Connect to Twitter during a soccer game (or football as it’s correctly called *) and along with people tweeting ambiguous statements like “YES” and “oh no buddy” to around 20,000 inexplicable retweets, you You will likely see a lot of complaints about the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and sometimes the technology on the goal line not doing its job.
Fans of Scottish football team Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC experienced a hilarious new tech glitch during a game last weekend, but in all fairness you’d be hard pressed to say it didn’t improve significantly the viewing experience.
The club announced a few weeks ago that it was switching from using human cameramen to AI-controlled cameras. the club proudly announced at the time, the new “Pixellot system uses cameras with built-in AI and ball tracking technology” and would be used to capture HD footage of all home games at Caledonian Stadium, which would be broadcast directly at the homes of season ticket holders.
Cut to last Saturday, when the robot’s cameras faced a new challenge that hadn’t been anticipated: a linesman with a bald head.
The AI camera appeared to confuse the man’s bald head with the ball for much of the match, repeatedly turning to follow the linesman instead of the actual match. Many viewers complained they missed their team by scoring a goal because the camera “continued to think Lino’s bald head was the ball”, and some even suggested the club should provide the linesman with a top or a hat.
With no fans allowed in the stadium due to Covid-19 restrictions, fans of Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC and their opponents Ayr United could only watch through the cameras, and were therefore entitled to primarily view from the head of the linesman instead of thrilling moments. of the match that took place off-camera, although some fans saw this as a bonus given the usual quality of performance.
As you can see from the highlight reel above, the AI-controlled camera constantly follows the linesman’s head, especially in trouble when the ball falls to the ground near him. You can practically hear his thought process: “ball ball ball ball bald head, there is a bald head, zoom in on the bald head.” “
Object recognition technology clearly could use a little tweak, or the team might actually have to implement the policy of bald referees being forced to wear a sombrero to differentiate themselves from the ball.
* It may surprise you to learn that IFLScience is based in the UK and not in the US.