Automatic line call system debuts on network TV at Bell Challenge

Auto-Ref's automatic line call system allows officials to use the system as an officiating aid or as a full substitute for line umpires. To view a larger version of this image, click here.

At last weekend’s Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Auto-Ref's automatic line call system scored with several tennis organizations.

Representatives watched Auto-Ref's performance as it tracked the flight of tennis balls with high-speed cameras and advanced software algorithms, and mapped the precise spot where it impacted the court relative to the line.

While the technology was not used to make official in and out rulings, the demonstration gave representatives from the International Tennis Federation (ITF), The Women's Tennis Association (WTA), the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) a chance to evaluate Auto-Ref’s ability to make real-time calls.

The system can operate in several modes, from instant video replay for chair umpires to full line calling mode. This allows officials to use the system as an officiating aid or as a full substitute for line umpires.

Besides line calls, Auto-Ref can deliver instant, animated video replays from various angles. The system can perform real-time analysis and display multiple statistics. It can also feed broadcasters a signal for integration into their event production.

At the Bell Challenge, The Sports Network, a Canadian sports broadcaster, used Auto-Ref's instant replay for its broadcast of the tournament's final match. This was the first time the technology has been used as part of a network’s sports coverage. (The Bell Challenge will broadcast Nov. 15.)

The ITF and other tennis associations evaluate the Auto-Ref at the 2004 US Open in New York.

Auto-Ref has been in development for more than three years. Its evaluation process began earlier this year at the 2004 US Open. The ITF-led evaluation took place Aug. 24-26 during qualifying week.

Two weeks ago, the ITF issued a report on the technology’s effectiveness, according to Auto-Ref. The technology was the first such system to undergo an official ITF evaluation. The 20-page report based its findings on practicality, accuracy and consistency. The report confirmed that Auto-Ref is capable of an accuracy of 4mm, and that all decisions made by the system during testing were correct.

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