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