How Does the Tennis Hawk-Eye Work?
If you’re an avid tennis fan, then you will have heard Hawk-Eye mentioned countless times at Wimbledon this year. If not, then you are probably wondering what it means. The Hawk-Eye system made its debut appearance at Wimbledon in 2007 but has a history that covers more than tennis. So what is Hawk-Eye and what can it tell us about the effectiveness of technology within sports?
Hawk-Eye as a concept was born back in 1999 thanks to research performed by Roke Manor Research Ltd. The concept was led by Dr. Paul Hawkins and eighteen months into its development, Hawk-Eye found its way into the sports world through its coverage of the Ashes on Channel 4. Although originally used in cricket, it wasn’t long before it made its first appearance on to the tennis courts in 2002, when it covered the BBC’s Davis Cup.
How Hawk-Eye works
On the surface, the vision processing system is fairly simple – it tracks the tennis ball through various high-speed, high-definition cameras placed at different angles and then sends that information into a computer, which translate the results onto a virtual reality screen. The cameras essentially capture every move that the tennis ball makes and uses this information to predict the outcome of the ball, which in tennis will mean one of two things; “out” or “not out”.
The Hawk-Eye however cannot be one hundred percent accurate. This is because the cameras don’t have the ability to track every movement of the ball due to frame limitations, so it’s up to a set of mathematical algorithms to estimate whether the ball would have been in or out. Usually, Hawk-Eye is reliable and can provide a better perception of the ball’s motions than the human eye, however because it this is not always the case, there has been some discrepancy around its use within tennis.
As Hawk-Eye is a camera based system, if a game were to continue into the evening where darkness was going to set in, the use of Hawk-Eye would also be void as it would not be able to accurately spot the ball due to lack of lighting. This issue in itself has sparked some outspoken opinions on whether a game should even continue once darkness sets in, as the removal of the Hawk-Eye’s judgment halfway through a game could affect the overall outcome.
At the moment there doesn’t seem to be any alternatives lined up for the near future.So although Hawk-Eye’s accuracy has been contended, the general consensus is that it is more effective than the human eye, but unfortunately cannot always be precise.