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September 12, 2008

Who's Right on Hawk-Eye?

Hawk-Eye, the sophisticated instant-replay system used in Grand Slam tennis matches on show courts, uses cameras and computer simulations to show where tennis balls land. It's used as the final word on accepted calls, and the New York Times says it has "won over players, fans and officials." Maybe so, but it hasn't won over Salon tech writer Farhad Manjoo.


Simulation may not be exact. But it's better than nothing.

The Times sings Hawk-Eye's praises and notes that tennis's clay-court appeals process, in which an umpire can overrule a call based on marks the ball makes in the clay, have allowed the system to be implemented with little controversy. The Post, though, bemoans the technology. It blames the machine for the absence, in contemporary tennis, of fits of emotion akin to John McEnroe's famous outbursts, and says "technology can introduce as much uncertainty as it solves," because machines can get calls wrong, too.

Indeed, they can—but that's no reason not to use them. If Hawk-Eye, and other instant-replay systems, can increase the accuracy of calls, then that's all that matters, provided everyone is subject to the same rules. To say an improvement isn't an improvement just because it's imperfect is not only illogical; it goes against the very idea of progress.

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- Sports
- posted on Sep 12, 08

I have no problem with using technology in sports, but I dont like the way hawk-eye is used in major tournaments. Why should a wrong call only be overturned if a player challenges it? Why cant chair umps admit when a call is close and call for a second look? That way players dont have to think about it during the point (and if you think it doesnt get in their head, go ask Andy Murray) and there's no risk of them abusing the system for a quick break (ahem, Ms. Jankovic).

Also, my biggest issue with hawk-eye is that it gives the impression of being a 100% accurate x-ray view of the action, when in reality it is simply a composite view of a few hi-tech cameras. Would it kill them to put a margin of error on-screen?

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