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FIFA is testing a new AI system that helps refs make more accurate offside calls

Would you like to see more AI in your sporting events?

soccer ball on field
Image: Unsplash

The offside rule in soccer (or football to the rest of the world) is one of those things that’s endlessly debated between fans. Did the referees get it right? Was the video assist done correctly? Would they have scored if the decision had gone the other way? Well, FIFA, soccer’s governing body, is trying to change the script with a new AI-powered system that should be able to make correct offside decisions in milliseconds.

According to Forbes, the system is still in the early stages of development, so it’ll be a few years yet before we see robots making offside decisions.

FIFA is now using AI to help refs make offside calls

soccer offsides call

Image: Reddit

The current Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system uses human refs to literally decide where to draw the line in offside decisions. That takes time, time that annoys fans and takes away from the speed of the game. See, unlike NFL football, soccer is meant to be a flow, with minimal interruptions. Now FIFA is trying to reduce the time it takes to make those decisions, by creating a semi-automated system where an AI system first decides where to place the offside line.

  • The new AI-enabled offside VAR was first tested in the 2019 Club World Cup, held in Qatar
  • It uses limb tracking to work out which limb of which player is closest to the goal line at any given point in time
  • Currently, the VAR system uses a human referee to decide which frame of footage to use, and where to draw the offside line

It took two years for the current VAR system to be developed, and the new AI system has only been in development for less than a year. That means it won’t be gracing a soccer pitch anytime soon, but one day, robots will be catching offside players.

What do you think? Would you like to see this implemented? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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