AI camera mistakenly tracks referee’s bald head instead of soccer ball

As the world begins to slowly cede control of everything to artificial intelligence, there are bound to be growing pains. When a Scottish football team upgraded their stadium with games broadcast live using an AI-powered ball tracking camera, they failed to realize that for a computer a shaven-headed referee and / or bald would be almost indistinguishable from a soccer ball.

As part of efforts to increase social distancing and protect their fans, a few weeks ago Scottish football club Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC announced that they would live stream all home games at their New Caledonian stadium in the season ticket holders or those who wish to watch a specific game through a pay-per-view service. As part of the initiative, the club also revealed that it will replace human cameramen with a new automatic camera system from a company called Pixellot that harnesses artificial intelligence to track the ball on the pitch and automatically keep the ball rolling. important action centered on the screen.

At least that was the plan.

According to the Pixellot website, to date more than 500,000 sporting events have been broadcast using its AI-powered camera technology, but for some reason a recent game between Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ayr United turned out to be too difficult for the system to do correctly. his work. It wasn’t the weather that complicated matters, but rather one of the linesmen sported a bald head that was apparently just shiny enough and just round enough to be mistaken for a soccer ball.

YouTuber Chuckiehands together edited a highlight reel of the Pixellot system struggling to stay focused on the real ball throughout the game. He mostly did his job as it should, but every once in a while when the ball is obscured by players or shadows, the camera quickly readjusts and momentarily moves towards the linesman at the bottom of the front screen. to refocus and return to the ball again. .

As frustrating as it must have been to pay fans on the squad trying to watch the action at home, it’s also a fun example of why to rely solely on artificial intelligence, especially in its early days. , is not the best approach. But it’s also a caveat: if a computer has such a hard time distinguishing a human head from a soccer ball, do we really want self-driving cars to exercise judgment on our roads?