4 Ways AI is in Use in the Qatar FIFA World Cup

Since its inception in 1930, the World Cup has served its global fanbase with dazzling spectacle, footballing legends, and pulsating drama. The current edition, which was hosted in Qatar, has been one of the most successful and organized world cup editions in the history. As Argentina just won the world cup 2022, we examine one of the lesser published stories of the World Cup – Artificial Intelligence's role in the world's premier competition.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has changed much of what we recognize of the world today. In recent weeks, the wonder of ChatGPT – the OpenAI large language model – has topped news headlines with its remarkable capabilities prompting fierce debates about the potential of AI. 

At its core, AI is a self-learning technology that performs tasks previously attributed to or can be considered human-like intelligence. Modern applications of the technology include speech recognition software, computer vision and image recognition, and self-driving cars. AI is introducing much needed simplicity to daily operations and making tasks faster and easier to perform.

With national pride and high stakes to play for, the need for an inch-perfect tourney has driven the industrious Qatar to adopt AI technologies on and off the pitch. Some of the applications of AI in the FIFA World Cup include:

Connected Ball Technology: Named Al Rihla, this edition of the official World Cup match ball, is the first of its kind to feature the use of connected ball technology – a novel approach to supporting refereeing decisions. The ball houses a recently developed adidas Suspension System at its center that holds a 500Hz inertial measurement unit (IMU) motion sensor. In synergy with AI, the ball feeds match officials with accurate and live data (up to 500 times per second) on player contact. Along with player position data, the information is used to support the decision making of match officials.

Semi-Automated Offside Technology: Otherwise called SAOT by its acronym, this support tool uses 3D animation to spot offside calls, thus eliminating the controversy associated with refereeing decisions. The technology determines the relative position of the key players at the precise time the ball is played. The system relies on connected ball technology and a network of cameras mounted underneath the stadium roofs. These cameras are used exclusively to track the ball and 29 data points on the players’ bodies. These data points correspond to all limbs and extremities that determine offside calls. These data points are integrated to calculate the exact location of players on the field and further processed to generate automated alerts when offsides are detected. For the benefit of the viewers, the system generates the earlier mentioned 3D animation to justify the call.

Connected Stadium: The World Cup is a major tourist event. The first 52 matches of this edition registered a cumulative attendance of 2.65 million fans. Such a large influx raises crowd control concerns. Qatar’s answer to this is the “Connected Stadium” which features the use of no fewer than 22,000 security cameras and facial recognition technology that allows a team of technicians to observe stadium goers closely. The use of these cameras makes it possible for officials to monitor each venue from a control center and switch from one stadium to another. The input received can then be applied to predict crowd surges and deal with overcrowding by communicating with security officials.

Enhanced Football Intelligence: The Qatar World Cup also features the use of an Enhanced Football Intelligence service which provides a unique game-by-game in-match and post-match statistical analysis presented as augmented reality and traditional graphics. The analysis provides a finer perspective of the game with the introduction of new metrics such as ball recovery time, team shape, phases of play, etc. The goal of this technology goes beyond the World Cup as it aims to enable FIFA better understand the evolution of football and the differences in transitioning from junior football to senior football in both the men’s and women’s games.

AI’s introduction or larger role in the 2022 FIFA World Cup is a further sign of its looming presence in today’s world and a further reminder to professionals to learn AI to stay relevant in today’s job market. AIQOM AI offers people of all professional backgrounds the platform to learn and develop their own AI models to solve problems.

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