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Technology companies combine to unveil revolutionary robotic referee

Tue 1st Apr 2014 | IT & Technology

Betfair has today launched the first ever robotic referee prototype, with plans to open talks with the Premier League and FIFA in the close season.

Using the technology expertise which has allowed them to continually revolutionise sports betting, Betfair has worked with Tab Fire Labs - a sport technology company in the same space as Hawk Eye – to develop the device in the hope of revolutionising football.

Drawing on the very latest artificial intelligence and computer technology and nicknamed “RoboRef”, the device features every element of awareness required by a top level referee but to the nth degree: from specialised facial recognition software to identify players to a military-standard radar system able to scan the flight of the ball from anywhere on the pitch.

The key to RoboRef is its ground-breaking Calibrated Awareness Robotics Decision System (C.A.R.D.S). Automatic computer analytics software can make up to 15,800 decisions a second, while the Consistency Databank - a 5 terrabyte cache of over 10 million past refereeing decisions dating back 50 years - ensures that penalty and other decisions remain consistent. A comedian and football obsessive, Jonah Rogers quipped: “Now football fans will have to chant ‘The Referee’s a Databanker’".

Tab Fire Labs Head of Research and Development, Thor Magnusson, said: “Betfair’s technology has revolutionised sports betting, we’ve done the same for retrieving golf balls, now together we plan to revolutionise refereeing with the RoboRef. Their extensive knowledge of data analysis combined with our next generation computerised systems has made this dream something of a reality. Here, finally, is something that won’t ever be fooled”.

As well as boasting unrivalled visual technology (in tests, RoboRef was able to detect a minor infringement up to 300mk away), RoboRef has an integrated audio system – an advanced version of the iPhone’s SIRI technology - able to hear what individual players are saying within a 400m range. Fortunately, being a robot, it does have a fantastically thick skin.

RoboRef also has an innovative mobility system, capable of speeds of up to 40mph, meaning it will be able to outpace the quickest players in the game. It’s also been fitted with self-righting gyroscope technology, nicknamed the Weeble function (Paulo di Canio take note!).

The two companies have worked closely with ex-referee, Dermot Gallagher, and player- turned pundit, Mark Bright, as strategic advisors to the project.

Gallagher, who has 10 years of experience refereeing top flight football, and ex Sheffield Wednesday striker Bright are employed to ensure the tricks missed regularly by human referees are spotted by RoboRef.

Gallagher commented, “As a referee, I regularly heard shouts of ‘You should have gone to spec savers!’, but RoboRef could consign such chants to the past”.

Bright added, “I was mugged off by dodgy decisions in my career on countless occasions, so when I got the call about RoboRef, I jumped at the chance to add my insight to the project.”

When asked why the betting company had started the project, Betfair’s Barry Orr added, “Roboref is the natural next step after goalline technology. Inaccurate refereeing has made a mockery of the sport for decades, but most importantly for us it has conned our customers out of well-deserved profits.

With the advent of RoboRef and the removal of these inaccurate decisions, we believe that the game of football and football betting will be a fairer place for all involved.”


Posted by: Kev Howland 

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