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Can Cameras and Software Replace Referees?


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Roger Federer

Joe Robbins / Getty Images

In the 2004 US Open tennis quarterfinals, Serena Williams couldn't catch a break against Jennifer Capriati. Faced with a comedy of linesman and chair umpire errors, the world's best player looked on as one bad call after another went against her, swinging the match in Capriati's favor. The decisions were so egregious that US Open officials dismissed the chair umpire from the remainder of the tournament and apologized to Williams for the calls. But an even more significant development in the aftermath of the match was the increased pressure to introduce technology into the game that would assist in line calls; a shift which would change the game.

Two years later, the US Open became the first of the four major tennis tournaments to allow technology that could have prevented the 2004 controversy when it introduced Hawk-Eye. The system works by mounting 10 high-speed cameras around the court with five dedicated to each side of the net to capture the ball's movement from multiple angles, measuring its speed and trajectory. Then a computer processes that information, pinpointing the spot on the court within 3 mm of where the ball hit the ground and calculating the ball's compression to determine the size and shape of the mark that represents where the ball touched the court.

From Popular Mechanics
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