Miniature Know-It-All Computer Referees Plan To Take Over NFL

Fed up with controversy surrounding inconclusive replays, the NFL is exploring the possibility of putting microchips in balls, goal lines and first down markers in order to let computers decide whether touchdowns and first downs are valid.

The league is staying mum on the talks, but a representative from Cairos Technologies confirmed the talk to Reuters.

“Yes, we are talking. There is a demand in American Football,” the sales director said.

Do you think the added technology would improve the game or worsen it by robbing close calls of the human element?

NFL in discussions about using chip-in-ball technology [Reuters via Engadget]

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  1. GMFish says:

    If it gets rid of the annoying and time wasting challenges, I think it’s a great idea.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      But the endless debate years later about key plays is part of the majesty of the game.

      It makes it more interest, and makes the sport more organic.

      I personally don’t give one damn about football, but I think this will take away a loved aspect of the game, even if people don’t realize it yet.

      • Griking says:

        I don’t know of anyone who enjoys looking back and thinking of how their team was robbed and how they could have been champs had a referee not blown a call.

        My opinion is that if technology can help make the right call and do so in less time then by all means bring it on.

        • NashuaConsumerist says:

          In the same regard, I can recall plenty of times when the home team walked away with a win after a bad call. That human element can go either way and I think it would even out mostly in the end…

        • The Porkchop Express says:

          they could look back on how the team was robbed in that they can say their team didn’t suck it, they got robbed. Kind of a scape goat type thing.

          If it is obvious they didn’t get robbed…..”my team ate it, waaa”.

          this is just a theory though.

      • Griking says:

        I don’t know of anyone who enjoys looking back and thinking of how their team was robbed and how they could have been champs had a referee not blown a call.

        My opinion is that if technology can help make the right call and do so in less time then by all means bring it on.

  2. gafpromise says:

    I seem to remember hearing once that it is physically impossible for the human eye & mind to keep track of all the moving parts on a football field that a referee needs to see. So I think it’s a good thing.

  3. Underpants Gnome says:

    Same way I feel about replay. If the change goes in favor of my team, I wholeheartedly support it. If you’re taking away my ill-gotten gains, it’s the worst thing to happen to sports since the invention of $9 beer.

  4. slim150 says:

    The thing about US football though is the ball only needs to pierce the line/endzone. So having a chip in the middle wouldn’t really tell you much. It could only confirm calls but it wouldn’t be able to deny them.

    • Sneeje says:

      Yeah, and I have a hard time believing that it could be that precise, and more importantly, error-free. It seems like you would just introduce a different type of uncertainty.

    • Platypi {Redacted} says:

      I would think that the scientists could overcome that pretty easily, perhaps with one chip at each end, and you read the one that is furthest down field. OR, you could measure the orientation of the ball (up/down, horizontal or perpendicular, etc) and then calculate the furthest reach of the downfield ball edge.

      • Sneeje says:

        Right, but even so, that’s my point. That’s an awfully precise measurement to take at distance (even the distance from the ground to the ball, which could easily be measured in feet when there is a pileup) regardless of whether the chip is in the middle or the ends. And the ends of the ball could take quite a beating, thus my point about whether or not it could be error-free or whether it would just introduce different errors.

        What happens the first time the TV replay shows something different that the technology?

  5. Polish Engineer says:

    Awesome! Let the refs focus on calling a fair game and the computers focus on where the ball is.

    Time stamp the position of the ball, and hit the booth. Knee down at time A, ball at position B, plane not broken, no touchdown, happy day.

  6. SabreDC says:

    Next we’ll see them replace the players with robots because the human element of the players results in numerous infractions, injuries, etc. I’m pretty fed up with these super-stadium, computerized, mega events. I don’t think I’ve actually watched a full football game in about 4 years.

  7. GyroMight says:

    I know I may be in the minority when I voice my opinion against this. Yes it sucks when a ref blows one of those close calls against your team, but thats part of the game. The whole human error element just adds to the drama, gives the fans a little extra to bitch about. I think that if that part of the game gets taken away people will realize how much they miss it. Why don’t we just use robots and just run complex algorithms to simulate the games while we are at it?

    • AI says:

      Why don’t we just have the fans fistfight in the stands to determine what the call should be then? That’ll really add to the drama.

      • GyroMight says:

        Ha. Instead of throwing a challenge flag on to the field they can just announce “A New Challenger Appears!”

    • OnePumpChump says:

      EA makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year doing just that.

  8. pantheonoutcast says:

    It needs to be done in baseball too. Umps are becoming frequently more complacent about their inability to judge a close play accurately, due to the lack of accountability in MLB. The minute that ump blew the “perfect game” call earlier in the season, the call should have been reversed, the ump sent for retraining, and a system put in place for video review of important plays.

  9. TimothyT says:

    Take that MLB!

  10. montecon says:

    first you let them decided whether touchdowns and first downs are valid, then they’ll want to decide who lives and who dies.

  11. Laines says:

    This will be fun for hackers.

  12. Mighty914 says:

    I’m always surprised that people are resistant to these technological additions, saying that the “human element” adds to the game. Replays have slowly been introduced into a number of sports, and there has NEVER been a point where people were sad to see that go. Yes, the endless replay watching gets tedious, but people don’t get upset if a wrong call is overturned for the right one. Besides, this seems like it would cut down on watching replays under the hood.

  13. jariten says:

    I hope they do what they did with hockey a decade ago or so with that crazy glowy puck. It was so rediculous they canceled it which is the best thing that could happen if the NFL goes with this plan.

    • Munchtime says:

      The glowing puck was more of a gimmick to attract attention to the sport and ease a tentative audience’s reservations that they can’t follow what is going on, which is a weak argument against hockey anyhow. Using technology to make calls more accurate and free from error is a much different animal, and ask any team who was robbed a playoff spot or a championship or a notable feat for the record books because of human error, and you’ll get support for this type of upgrade. You still need refs to call penalties and make judgments on whether a player took two steps inbounds, but even replays have shown us they can get those wrong too. The technology only helps. It’s not a autonomous robot arm in India taking away your manufacturing job, so don’t be afraid of it.

    • Munchtime says:

      The glowing puck was more of a gimmick to attract attention to the sport and ease a tentative audience’s reservations that they can’t follow what is going on, which is a weak argument against hockey anyhow. Using technology to make calls more accurate and free from error is a much different animal, and ask any team who was robbed a playoff spot or a championship or a notable feat for the record books because of human error, and you’ll get support for this type of upgrade. You still need refs to call penalties and make judgments on whether a player took two steps inbounds, but even replays have shown us they can get those wrong too. The technology only helps. It’s not a autonomous robot arm in India taking away your manufacturing job, so don’t be afraid of it.

    • Munchtime says:

      The glowing puck was more of a gimmick to attract attention to the sport and ease a tentative audience’s reservations that they can’t follow what is going on, which is a weak argument against hockey anyhow. Using technology to make calls more accurate and free from error is a much different animal, and ask any team who was robbed a playoff spot or a championship or a notable feat for the record books because of human error, and you’ll get support for this type of upgrade. You still need refs to call penalties and make judgments on whether a player took two steps inbounds, but even replays have shown us they can get those wrong too. The technology only helps. It’s not a autonomous robot arm in India taking away your manufacturing job, so don’t be afraid of it.

  14. JustLurking says:

    I say go for it in football, but leave baseball to the umps.

    Football has always been about advancing technology and the game constantly changes. Instant replay, clocks, helmet radios, offensive coordinators who never see the field during a game but sit in a booth examining in-game footage and screenshots to counter the challenge of the defense? The NFL is already overwhelmed with technology.

    Baseball? It’s still nine guys versus one on the field at a time, one with a stick and the others throwing the same size ball, with the same number of stitches against a guy with a wooden stick that also hasn’t change much in the last 120 years.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Except that over the hundred + years that baseball has been played professionally:

      The ball size, weight and density has changed
      The bat size, weight and materials have changed
      The rules have changed
      The construction of the playing field has changed
      The gloves, shoes and other equipment has changed
      The number of coaches and support staff per team have changed.
      The strike zone has changed

      Yeah, but other that that, it’s exactly the same as it always has been.

  15. TimothyT says:

    If they’re going to show the games on TV and on large screens within the park with slow-motion then they need to get it right by all means necessary. They shouldn’t do one without the other. Technology can make it right every time in milliseconds. In 2010 there should be no blown fair/foul/first down/TD calls period.