Artificial Intelligence-powered judges could assist human judges at gymnastics events in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Artificial Intelligence is all around us. You may not realise it but everytime you fire Siri or Assistant, you're using AI. Ever impulse-shopped on an e-commerce site? Well, you're using AI. Love streaming movies or music on your favourite streaming sites, the recommendations are powered by AI.

And now, AI could be playing a part in judging at the Olympic games as well.

Dipa Karmakar competes in the Women's Vault Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Getty

Dipa Karmakar competes in the Women's Vault Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Getty

Artificial Intelligence judges could be mainstream in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. At least in gymnastics.

According to The Guardian, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has given the green signal for AI technology's assistance with scoring at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Japanese company Fujitsu is working on a software which will use data coming from the 3D sensors to analyse gymnastic events such as pommel horse and floor routines. Fujitsu has reportedly said that it will have the technology functioning at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Fujitsu has already put in a lot of work to ensure that the AI judges are as good as human judges. It started off with capturing the 3D data of professional gymnasts in 2016 so as to create a 'bone structure model' of the athletes. This lets the software to understand and create a digital simulation of the exact position of the gymnast. This is then compared with the international gymnastics committee standards.

The 3D mapping helps create a digital version of the gymnast, in real time, as they are performing their routines. The software then helps measure the height of the jumps, distances and angle of limbs, and then arrive at a score according to the committee standards.

According to Fujifilm, this technology should help make scoring easier and can also help the athletes during training. In addition to this, broadcast viewers will get a more in-depth look at how scores are calculated. Fujitsu is even willing to take care of the research and development costs of this undertaking.

Speaking to The Guardian, former FIG president Bruno Grande touched upon how the eight-hour work day could mentally tire out some of the judges.

Steve Butcher, the technical co-ordinator, is on the fence regarding the use of technology. According to him, judges could have an inherent human bias but a program could help resolve that for settling issues. He feels that although completely replacing human judges is still too soon in 2020, in the next 20 years it could be a reality.

But as is the case with everything associated with artificial intelligence, there is a chance of the bias creeping in.

All the data fed should be comprehensive and take into account all the different styles and techniques. But Romanian gymnastics legend (and the first gymnast to be awarded the perfect score of 10.0 at the 1976 Montreal Olympics), Nadia Comaneci has expressed her reservations about using technology to judge gymnastics.

"Gymnasts are known for pushing the skills, looking for new angles, turns, points – so what happens when someone comes along with a totally different routine that has not been seen or registered by the computer," she questioned. There is a high chance of the AI returning false scores if these 'new angles, turns' do not fit its database. Comaneci says that gymnastics is too complex a game to be judged by a computer, but there is no harm in trying it out.

Betsy Cooper, the executive director for long-term cybersecurity at UC Berkeley is also skeptical of the use of AI to judge gymnastics, considering that are around 10-100 independent moves which are being scored. "If the algorithm were manipulated by even a small portion you could affect the overall outcome score and it would be very hard to detect," said Cooper to Guardian.

The use of technology in sports is inevitable. Even while preparations are on for using AI judge assistant for 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the ongoing Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will be seeing the first ever robot ski tournament.

According to the Korean Herald, eight teams from local universities and tech firms will be competing at the inaugural event. Each team has a humanoid robot with two legs that wears skis. They're around 50 cm tall and are equipped with sensors, batteries and deep learning algorithms which will allow them to move on their own.

Updated Date: Feb 09, 2018 11:56 AM