Gymnastics Judge’s Helper AI system measures performances in Olympic-level gymnastics competitions.

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Gymnastics Judge’s Helper: AI system measures performances in Olympic-level gymnastics competitions.

Judges in competitive gymnastics are using an AI system to double-check their decisions.

What’s new: Olympic-level gymnastic contests have adopted Judging Support System (JSS), an AI-based video evaluation system built by Fujitsu, MIT Technology Review reported. In September and October,  for the first time, judges at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp used JSS in competitions that involved the full range of gymnastics equipment including mat, balance beam, parallel bars, pommel horse, and so on. 

How it works: Judges penalize gymnasts for imperfections in any pose or move. JSS identifies deviations that correspond to particular penalties. The system can evaluate roughly 2,000 poses and moves with 90 percent accuracy compared to human judges. It can assess both isolated actions and entire routines. 

  • Fujitsu trained JSS on video footage of 8,000 gymnastic routines that encompass the official gymnastics scoring guide. The system matches body positions to corresponding poses and motions described in the scoring guide.
  • JSS receives position data on a gymnast’s body from 4 to 8 cameras. A 2018 paper offers hints about how the current system may work: Given the images, it detects the posture (front-facing, handstand, or rear-facing). Given the posture, it feeds the images into a corresponding 3D model. Then it converts the images into a virtual skeleton, conforms a human model to the skeleton, and modifies the skeleton (and conformed model) to match the images.
  • Under the current rules, judges can use JSS only when competitors challenge a score or a judge and supervisor disagree. The International Gymnastics Federation, the sport’s global governing body, has not yet revealed whether or how the system will be used at this year’s Summer Olympics in Paris.

Behind the news: Sporting authorities have embraced AI both inside and outside the arena.

  • The English Premier League football clubs Chelsea and Nottingham Forest have expressed interest in the AISCOUT app as a way to discover fresh talent. Amateur players upload videos of themselves performing drills, and the app scores their performance. 
  • At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, official timekeeper Omega Timing provided several AI-based systems: a pose estimator for gymnasts on the trampoline, an image recognition system that analyzed swimmers’ performance, and a ball tracker for volleyball.
  • Acronis, a Swiss company that provides video storage for pro football teams, has built AI applications that track players’ movements and analyze their tactics. The company also predicts match attendance for teams in the English Premier League based on ticket sales, weather, and other factors. 

Why it matters: Gymnastic competitors are scored on subjective criteria such as expression, confidence, and personal style as well as technical competence, raising questions of unconscious bias and whether some judges might favor certain competitors over others. An AI system that tracks technical minutiae may help judges to avoid bias while focusing on the sport’s subjective aspects.

We’re thinking: Tracking gymnasts in motion sets a high bar for AI!


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