At the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, artificial intelligence was used for the first time in judging on all 10 machines. Will computers take on the role of judges?
Immediately after practicing for the beam final, Sunny Weavers grabbed a pen and paper. She added her elements one by one. It received a difficulty score of D of 6.3. But the jury gave it only 5.9 points. So she walked briskly to the other side of the room to ask for an “investigation.” Filing such a protest costs three hundred euros. Within a few minutes the verdict was out: her score was not upgraded.
(“I was treated harshly”) and now sits in fourth place, said Wevers, who won the bronze medal with the extra half point she requested. At the same time, I was resigned to the decision. Weavers doesn’t know any better than to deal with a jury. Sometimes you feel like you’re not getting enough, and other times it’s not so bad. “This sport is not defined by a stopwatch, we live with that fact.”
Incorrect refereeing has not benefited the sport. We want gymnastics to be as fair and transparent as timed sports like athletics and swimming
However, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) seeks to increase the objectivity of judging and reduce the number of debates. A number of scandals have damaged the sport’s credibility. Things went very wrong at the Athens Olympics (2004). American Paul Hamm mistakenly won the gold medal in the all-around final, after South Korea’s Yang Tae-yong was wrongly deducted a tenth of a point on bars.
Two months later, the Court of Sport (CAS) ruled that it could not correct the error, and Yang was awarded the bronze. In the high bar final, the audience stopped the match for ten minutes out of anger because Russian Alexei Nemov’s exercise was rated very low. After the 2014 World Cup in China, seven referees were reprimanded for providing “biased or unsatisfactory results.”
Dutch gymnasts and coaches said last week in Antwerp that things have improved a lot in recent years. But FIG proudly held a press conference to explain how artificial intelligence (AI) from Japanese sponsor Fujitsu is helping the jury. FIFA President Morinari Watanabe spoke of an important achievement, because the system was used for the first time in all 10 men’s and women’s events at the current World Cup.
“The wrong judging has not benefited the sport. We want gymnastics to be as fair and transparent as timed sports such as track and field and swimming. Every athlete should receive a fair score,” Watanabe said. Fujitsu expects other jury-controlled sports, such as skating, to Snowboarding, dressage and ski jumping will increasingly benefit from artificial intelligence. “Anyone can lose focus after a long day of judging. The computer doesn’t get tired.”
Computer like VAR
However, the role of AI in gymnastics is still limited. Only if there is doubt within the jury about an athlete’s D grade, or if a protest is made, will the “automated computer” be triggered. With the help of advanced 2K cameras and equipment, he can review the exercise in four dimensions. It recognizes objects, can accurately measure angles to the degree and see if the position on the rings has been maintained for the required two seconds. The system can also do this “live”, but is now only used as a means of verification afterwards.
Humans can’t always tell the difference between a 44 and 46 degree angle in a split second
“A very good addition,” says Dutchman Raymond Nanko (41 years old). He has judged international competitions since 2006 and was active, for example, at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago. “People can’t always see the difference between a 44 and 46 degree angle in a split second, for example. The computer is an extra eye, a kind of VAR technology, as a backup.”
For now, the AI only helps determine the difficulty level. The implementation of e-score is still very complex. Not to mention the technical part for the women on floor and model. But with the speed at which artificial intelligence is developing, it may also be a matter of time.
“Last year I was able to play with the system and get to know it at the World Cup in Liverpool,” says Nanko, who is part of the highest tier of men’s international judging panel. “There are still some errors. It has been a year, but for now there will always be someone watching. How the system will be deployed in the future is up to the format. But I can imagine that it could also help the viewer or TV viewer to analyze the exercise and understand the refereeing better.” “
Suppose the system develops so well that the job of jury member eventually becomes redundant. Will he hurt Nanko? “On the one hand, yes. But I work in IT and I love technology. So I also think this development is really beautiful.
Free unlimited access to Showbytes? Which can!
Log in or create an account and never miss a thing from the stars.
Tv fanatic. Freelance thinker. Social media enthusiast. Total bacon lover. Communicator.