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Hawk-Eye: The Coming Revolution in Sport?

How fair was that LBW decision? Would the ball really have hit the stumps? Was that fast serve in or out? Hawk-Eye removes the doubt.

By Ross Tester

If you’ve been watching the cricket or tennis on TV this summer, you’ll no doubt have seen (and heard of) Hawk-Eye. Just how does this all-seeing, all-knowing electronic "eye" do its thing?

For those who have been too absorbed in the 20th movie repeats of the summer to watch live sport, perhaps a word or two of explanation: Hawk-Eye is an electronic umpire, able to tell (for example) whether a Brett Lee screamer would have hit the stumps had it not hit the pads of a hapless batsman. Or whether a Roger Federer 190km/h serve did clip the line, regardless of the fact that the linesman called it out.

Click for larger image

Hawk-Eye is of course capable of a whole lot more, as we will shortly see – but you get the picture.

It is the brainchild of Dr Paul Hawkins, a 29-year-old PhD who developed the unique system for his employer, Roke Manor Research (itself a division of Siemens), in Romsey, Hampshire, England.

In a nutshell, Hawkins took the extensive research which went into Roke’s military tracking system (the single-camera RAPiD system, a model based tracking system which was born out of developments in civil robotics) and applied it to the 3-D, multi-camera world of tracking a ball in flight. Interestingly, Roke developed the military tracking system to track missile trajectories and therefore targets during the Gulf War.

Due to Hawkins’ interest in cricket (he’s a social player), Hawk-Eye was first developed for the cricket pitch. Since then, it has been developed for tennis, baseball and even snooker/pool. The name, by the way, is Paul Hawkins’ father’s nickname – and it also very aptly sums up the system itself!

Hawk-Eye was launched in 2001 and in that year won the Royal Television Society award for Technical Innovation.

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