This week the Lenstore Team have been gripped by Wimbledon fever, enjoying the usual rituals of great tennis, fresh strawberries and blazing sunshine.
Although there’s been no sign of an impromptu Cliff Richard concert just yet, there has been another, more recent addition to the Wimbledon tradition: Hawk-eye made its Wimbledon debut back in 2007, and has gone from strength to strength ever since, moving into other sporting events across the globe.
What is Hawk-eye?
Hawk-eye is a ball tracking technology that allows umpires and players to settle unwanted disputes as to whether the ball really did cross the line or not. Thanks to its ability to reveal the location of the ball’s bounce within 5 seconds, this technology has become popular in various sports such as cricket, snooker, and more recently Gaelic hurling.
Hawk-eye calculates the trajectory of the ball, and determines where the ball will bounce. This is achieved by triangulating information from numerous cameras that all provide information of the ball’s position at different points. When this data is combined, it gives a read out of the ball’s estimated path, so that Hawk-eye can predict the ball’s movement.
Hawk-eye Vs. Your Eye
If Hawk-eye can predict where the ball will go as it’s smashed across the court at high speeds, then it must have an advantage over our human eyes. When Andy Murray serves at 120 mph, you do well to realise the ball has been hit, never mind seeing where it went. But if this is the case, then how can any other player react fast enough to return such a powerful serve?
The answer lays within the visual cortex, which can be found at the back of the brain, in the occipital lobe.
Much like the advanced Hawk-eye technology, the visual cortex is able to compensate for the delay by calculating where the ball will travel, allowing us to hit the ball rather than the ball hitting us. Without this motion perception, even the pouring the cream on your strawberries would become impossible.
Recent research by the University of California, Berkeley shows that it takes one tenth of a second for our brains to process the information sent by our eyes. This means that, when Andy Murray serves at 120mph, the ball will have moved about 15 feet before your brain has a chance to process where it is going and where it came from.
In essence, the Hawk-eye system works in very much the same way as the human eye, both processing estimated trajectories and playing catch up with the high speed object you’re looking at, rather than trying to track it in real time.
Hawk-eye benefits from being able to slow down and replay movements to make more informed decisions. However, the human brain is constantly working with the eye at a much faster rate, calculating information in one tenth of a second rather than the relatively sluggish five seconds it takes Hawk-eye to complete the same task, creating a very convincing, game, set and match to the human eye.