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Trial of smart balls

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TAFKA The Oracle
mountain man
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Post by No 7&1/2 Wed 17 May 2023, 10:08 am

Lifted this from the World Rugby site. Sounds a really positive thing IF it works!

'World Rugby is collaborating with Sportable and Gilbert to undertake the world’s first trial of smart ball technology in a live match officiating capacity at the World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa in June.

Celebrating 200 years of a sport that was born from innovation, World Rugby is exploring how the emergence of new technology and artificial intelligence can help shape the future of the sport, aiding the flow of the game and taking fan experience to the next level.

The complex art of officiating is one such focus area, and in line with the outcomes of the recent Shape of the Game conference, it is hoped that the Gilbert smart ball will help match officials make accurate decisions more quickly, tackling a number of common, but challenging aspects of law.

These areas include whether a ball has been passed forward, whether the ball is over the try-line, whether the ball has been touched in flight and line, where touch has been found and whether a lineout throw was straight.

How the technology will work

The smart ball is tracked in 3D and real-time with beacons positioned around the pitch to determine the exact position of the ball up to 20 times per second and provide immediate feedback on every kick, pass and throw.

At the World Rugby U20 Championship, the smart balls will assist match officials with the following use cases where visual assessment alone can be challenging and time-consuming:

Throw forward
Assist with decision making on forward passes by measuring the relative velocity of the ball relative to the player as it leaves their hands, so indicating whether the ball has been ‘thrown forward’ in the act of passing.

Made touch location
With an accurate location for where the ball makes touch, the Gilbert smart ball ensures the lineout is taken from the position the ball exited the pitch.

Touched in flight
Informing decision-making around whether a ball was touched in flight (e.g. partial charge down) by recognising changes in spin and trajectory caused by a touch of the ball.

Ball over try-line
Live location of the ball will determine whether the ball has reached the try-line.

Lineout throws
Provide instantaneous feedback indicating whether a lineout throw is not straight by measuring the angle of the throw from release to being touched by a player.

A direct feed will be made available to the Television Match Official, who will be able to use the information to provide feedback to the referee.

The smart ball is already successfully delivering rich insights and data to aid broadcast and digital experiences, but recent testing has also demonstrated its potential to assist with officiating decision-making, tackling game-defining decisions, and reducing the focus on referees and the wider match official team in often tricky areas.

With the future stars of the men’s test arena showcasing their ability, the World Rugby U20 Championship will also be the innovation hub for future technology innovation. Confirmation of the trial follows the announcement that the TMO Bunker will operate at the tournament, the first time that it has operated in an international competition.

World Rugby Director of Rugby Phil Davies said: “A fast game is a good game, and it is right that we explore technology that has the potential to help aid the flow of the game, reduce stoppage time and speed up match official decision-making.

“Rugby refereeing is perhaps the most difficult officiating job in sport. There are multiple decisions or non-decisions that are made at any given moment and the advancement of broadcast and social media means that such decisions are poured over long after the event.

“The evolution of smart ball technology opens the door to assist match officials in reaching accurate decisions more quickly, removing subjectivity and reducing the chance of error. While this is a trial and the technology is new, we are excited about its potential and look forward to seeing it in action at the World Rugby U20 Championship.”

Sportable CEO and co-founder Dugald Macdonald added: “We are excited by the opportunity to further showcase the full capabilities of the Gilbert smart ball in the upcoming World Rugby U20 Championship.

“After the successful implementation of smart ball technology to enhance the fan experience through broadcast graphics and digital content, we are looking forward to this next phase and the introduction of our officiating solution that the Smart Ball provides.

“We are fully supportive of the Shape of the Game work that World Rugby are conducting and delighted to be playing a part in moving the game forward.”

Gilbert CEO Richard Gray added: “We are delighted that World Rugby have selected the Gilbert iNNOVO Smart ball powered by Sportable for the first global event to use the new technology. What better way to mark Gilbert’s 200 years in rugby than to launch such an innovative collaboration that will help improve the game on and off the field of play?”

It is not anticipated that smart ball will feature at Rugby World Cup 2023 from an officiating support perspective given the emerging nature of the technology and the need to undertake a full review of outcomes before determining next steps.

World Rugby will also trial the TMO bunker at the World Rugby U20 Championship as part of an ongoing review of the technology to aid decision-making and if successful, could be trialled in test rugby prior to Rugby World Cup 2023. '

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Post by mountain man Wed 17 May 2023, 10:11 am

Excellent idea(if it works as you say).

So many forward passes or what certainly look like forward passes not checked so at least some help there.

Wonder if it'll be used for scrum feeds, hmmm...

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Post by No 7&1/2 Wed 17 May 2023, 10:41 am

Re scrums doesn't sound like it but why not. I'd suggest they need a touch of allowed variation especially on lineouts on windy days but i'm sure it will come out in the wash. Re forward passes, really hoping that works but more to show how often the refs get it completely right for me. There are still a group of people who can't get their heads around momentum (not you!).

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Post by TAFKA The Oracle Wed 17 May 2023, 12:40 pm

The Australian (I think) video on YouTube showing players passing the ball backwards over their heads yet the ball still travelling forward is the ultimate 'learn about momentum' video! I'll see if I can dig it out.

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Post by TAFKA The Oracle Wed 17 May 2023, 12:43 pm

Ah, not Australian. But from 1.38 onwards is the bit I was on about.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=100&v=box08lq9ylg&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bing.com%2F&embeds_referring_origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bing.com&source_ve_path=MzY4NDIsMjg2NjY&feature=emb_logo1%26lq%3D0%26pq%3Dforward%2520pass%2520rugby%26sc%3D8-18%26sk%3D%26cvid%3D6FD09A89F14E4FE697B6D877C60AFC2F%26ghsh%3D0%26ghacc%3D0%26ghpl%3D

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Post by Poorfour Wed 17 May 2023, 12:45 pm

The wording on forward passes is interesting. It's framed as the velocity of the ball relative to the player - so essentially they will measure whether the ball has a lower component of forward motion as it is passed than when it was in the player's hands.

I agree with No 7&1/2 that what it will probably start to show is that a lot of the balls that look "forward" are actually legal under the current interpretation of the laws - but that we will rapidly get used to seeing on-screen graphics of how fast players were moving and how the trajectory of the ball compares.

I wonder how that will be communicated to the refs and ARs. The regs specifically prohibit officials from wearing eyewear on the pitch, but presumably there will need to be some way to indicate to them where a ball crossed the line or a ball is forward. Will we rely on the TMO communicating it, or will the refs be given something to visualise the data?
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Post by Poorfour Sun 25 Jun 2023, 7:34 pm

The smart ball is being used in the JRWC, including Saturday’s Ireland v England game.
From what I could see, it spotted some (mostly fairly obvious) not-straight lineouts - but I think the main impact may have been in what was lacking. There were a fair few passes in the build up to tries that would normally have been referred to the TMO, but the TMO referrals were for groundings and high tackles.

From the way the lineouts were called, I think the feedback to the ref is pretty much in real time, so it looks to me as if the ref is being told in play whether the pass is forward or not. (That may also explain a couple of times where sides weren’t called on what looked like tip-ons of a loose ball). Worth watching to see if the pattern continues - if so, I’d say it’s been a promising addition to the refs’ armoury/
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Post by BamBam Mon 26 Jun 2023, 10:25 am

Oh goody, now the Welsh can move on from blaming the ref to blaming the ball

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Post by Pete330v2 Mon 26 Jun 2023, 1:09 pm

I was wondering what the set parameters were for the lineouts because a few looked fine but when computer says no, then we have to believe it apart from the Welsh who'll claim the computer parts were manufactured in Ireland therefore it's biased.

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Post by Poorfour Mon 26 Jun 2023, 4:58 pm

I imagine that they have a defined corridor around the line of touch and flag up when the ball goes outside it.
I thought the calls were pretty good, at least in the England v Ireland game. Several of them might have been allowed without the tech - but they were all clearly going to the outside arm of the jumper.
If the tech forces hookers to be more accurate, it’ll be a bit annoying for a season or so, but they’ll learn to focus more on their darts and that will make lineouts more contestable.
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Post by doctor_grey Mon 26 Jun 2023, 5:45 pm

Pete330v2 wrote:I was wondering what the set parameters were for the lineouts because a few looked fine but when computer says no, then we have to believe it apart from the Welsh who'll claim the computer parts were manufactured in Ireland therefore it's biased.
I'm not sure about this.  If the tech powering the balls is manufactured in Ireland, then surely the ball could be aimed off target by some terrorist with a drone type controller in the stands or the coachig box.  This is very dangerous.  Who knows what the Irish will do next?????

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