World Cup Match Ball to Contain Sensor for AI Refereeing Technology

Adidas and FIFA have announced that new AI technology will be used at this year's World Cup to speed up VAR decision making and improve it's accuracy. The Adidas Al Rihla match ball will contain a sensor suspended in its centre as part of the hi-tech process, making it the first World Cup match ball to feature such technology.

Adidas Al Rihla to Feature In-Ball AI Technology at World Cup

Although VAR was originally introduced primarily to eliminate refereeing errors in relation to offsides and confirmation of goals, many of the calls made using VAR have created controversy nonetheless, as well as causing delays during the match. As a result, further steps have been taken to ensure the correct calls will be made, and more quickly at that.

A new Adidas Suspension System, as seen in the photos above, will allow for the most time-precise motion sensor to ever be used inside a World Cup Official Match Ball, tracking every touch of the game at a rate of 500 times per second. The 500Hz inertial measurement unit (IMU) motion sensor inside the ball will enable the collection of very accurate ball movement data and transmission to Video Match Officials within seconds throughout the tournament.

Adidas say that the sensor in the ball has no effect whatsoever on its performance and is unnoticeable for the players.

Such in-ball technology has already been tested, including at the FIFA Arab Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup 2021 and Adidas say that no perceivable change in performance of the ball was noted. Blind tests were also a part of the trial process. FIFA and KINEXON, leaders in state-of-the-art sensor network and edge computing, collaborated with Adidas on the new technology, which will provide data to the VAR officials 500 times per second, tracking every minute touch and movement of the ball.

12 dedicated cameras in each stadium will track the ball as well as the players in order to provide extensive data on every relevant movement in the case of an offside. The following video, shared by @primefootballtv explains the process in detail.

Johannes Holzmüller, Director Football Technology & Innovation at FIFA said:

“This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing by FIFA and our partner adidas to provide the best possible experience for the referees, teams, players and fans who will be heading to Qatar later this year. We look forward to seeing semi-automated offside technology including the connected ball technology in action at the FIFA World Cup™ 2022.”

Adidas also clarified that the official Al-Rihla match ball with the connected ball technology will not be commercialized or available in retail.

What do you think of the introduction of artificial intelligence into refereeing? Do you think it will improve the quality of the game or take away from it? Have your say in the comments.