everything is bigger yet smaller

September 19, 2008 at 4:46 am | Posted in brian, technology, tennis | 1 Comment

i finally found out why, in televised tennis, they never show both the replay and hawk-eye (or spot shot or whatever corporately-sponsor name they come up with). i used to think it was because spot-shot was wildy inaccurate and probably rigged. now i know it’s because spot-shot is mildly inaccurate. but more importantly, spot-shot collects more data about the incident (by incident, i’m talking about the information relative to the spot the ball touches) to reach it’s conclusions than our eyes or our brains or even our video cameras.

hawk-eye takes information from a number of cameras, probabilitizes (which i’m using to mean assessing the probability of) things like trajectories, spins, velocities and then creates a simulation of the flight of the ball to locate where the ball hit.  this means spot-shot, because it interprets more data, can know things about the location of the landing we, even with our eyes or our brains or even our video cameras, cannot perceive.

take for instance the 2007 final at wimbledon between federer and nadal.  nadal smashes a shot to the baseline.  federer, believing it to be out, doesn’t make a play.  the chair umpire rules out.  the video replay rules out.  however, hawk-eye says in.

the reason: due to it’s superior information gathering and processing, hawk-eye knows that that ball hit with that power will,  on a grass surface, compress and skid for about 10 centimeters.  so while the all of us, even our video cameras, witnessed the ball as out, spot-shot knew, in its heart of hearts, the shot was in.

so the question is, should who should interpret our sport rules?  humans or god or given that god isnt around, the next best thing, super-sensitive computers?

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  1. i just came up with the solution. the original call should stand unless indisputable evidence contradicts it, just like in football. the hawk-eye machine actually can tell you the upper bounds on the error, making it possible to determine whether a hawk-eye simulation is indisputable. like that 2007 match where the ball was called in by 1mm, but the error is possibly as large as 6mm, it should not have overturned the initial call. but that way computers can still help to correct poor calls due to lack of concentration or lack of a decent angle.


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