University of Surrey may have the answer to football's goal-line technology debate
21 June 2012
As the debate about goal-line technology hits the headlines again this week, the national governing bodies of sport could do worse than seek advice from the UK’s Higher Education sector which is leading the way in researching this and other sport-technology issues ahead of London 2012.
Following another ‘goal-that-never-was’ in a major competition, this time for Ukraine against England at Euro 2012, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has declared the introduction of goal-line technology "a necessity".
However, UEFA’s Chief Refereeing Official, Pierluigi Collina has hit back, claiming Tuesday’s incident was the first failure in ‘thousands of matches’ since assistants were introduced on both goal-lines. The former Italian referee said: “This is the only problem we have had. It’s one negative decision in three years of Champions League, two years of Europa League and 24 matches in the Euros.”
Opinion is clearly split at the top, so is there a need to introduce goal-line technology and/or other video refereeing options into the beautiful game or should human officials be able to cope on their own?
The University of Surrey has been researching and testing these issues for well over a year. Professor Adrian Hilton is Director, Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) at the University.
His team works on video analysis, computer graphics and animation techniques, and regularly works with broadcasters such as the BBC, as well as big film studios, to develop 3D techniques and graphics.
One of the University’s big areas of recent research was its collaboration with the BBC for its "iview" project, which allows sports pundits to analyse matches from a huge array of angles to get the best view.
Last year, Hilton told the Guardian: "It works by using the footage streaming in from the usual 8-12 cameras around a stadium. From that, we use our scanning technology to reconstruct a 3D model of the scene, like a computer graphic, which commentators can use to render any viewpoint.
"So when they're talking about a particular instant in, say, a football game, they can view it from the sideline, or the referee's perspective, or the goalie's – even if there wasn't a camera there."
Hilton adds: "In principle the iview system can also solve specific goal-line issues but the main reason it wasn't used (at Euro 2012) was the approval of the governing bodies rather than the technology itself."
It's not all about football, however. Hilton’s team is working with the BBC on technology for athletics fans, finessing a way to measure athletes' movements using footage from just one broadcast camera.
"The aim is to allow overlay of 3D skeletal motion on the video footage and provide analysis of actor movement. There's a big push for 3D broadcasting, but it normally needs a lot of extra cameras in order to create that all-round experience. Using our 3D resconstruction technology it's possible to make footage from a single camera into 3D afterwards. It's much cheaper."
And the expertise extend beyond sport too. Animators, including those behind the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs, have paid the University of Surrey a license fee to use the technology.
Hilton added: "In films like Avatar, there was a requirement for visual effects that change the appearance of an actor after they have been filmed," he says. "We're investigating how to integrate 3D capture technologies into the established film production pipeline. But it's extremely challenging – the visual-effects have to be ‘photo-realistic’ on the big screen and the technologies have to work with existing production tools."
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