New and unpredictable balls are the theme of almost every World Cup. But this time it wasn’t the aerodynamics that surprised me. You may have come across photos of balls charging on a special stand.
Logical questions: is there a battery there ?! For what?
It’s time to learn more about high-tech balls, which may become an integral part of football.
Charging is needed for an internal sensor that tracks all movements
Each 2022 World Cup ball had a special device that collected real-time spatial position data. It took six years to develop and test the technology before it received FIFA certification.
The ball was developed by adidas in collaboration with KINEXON, the largest company that collects tracking data for analytics – tracks the movements of players during the match.
The weight of the new ball is 14 grams. It has two simultaneously working sensors:
• Ultra-Wideband (UWB) Sensor – For accurate ball location data and online transmission.
• Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) sensor – for capturing the nuances of an object’s movement in space. That is, it tracks the position of the ball in three dimensions.
The device is powered by a small battery. According to adidas, the power lasts for six hours with active use and 18 days without use. It is well protected in a closed strong block and cannot be damaged when playing football.
Any contact of the ball (kick, head, even hitting the ground) is recorded at a speed of 500 frames per second, and the data is immediately transmitted to the local positioning system (LPS). When the ball flies out of the field and then a new one is thrown in, the system switches without human intervention.
Technology proved that it was not Ronaldo who scored the goal, but Fernandes. It also detects offsides perfectly.
Together with the sensor, an optical tracking camera from Hawk-Eye is used – there are only 12 of them around the stadium, they follow each player (and their 29 different points of the body) about 50 times per second. This makes it much faster to determine the position of the offside using artificial intelligence than manually. Thanks to the KINEXON system, data is received at a frequency of 500 Hz, and synchronization with the Hawk-Eye is accurate to one millionth of a second.
This technology was used for the first time at the World Cup. And, it seems, not a single decision on offsides has caused fierce controversy. The sensor built into the ball allows you to track the moment of the pass with perfect accuracy. This was very lacking in the first versions of the VAR system, which was able to draw offside lines with relative accuracy, but depended on the human factor – millimeter accuracy lost all meaning when the VAR operator fixed the picture later / earlier than the transmission. And it wasn’t always his fault.
For example, a standard 50Hz HD monitor refreshes the picture 50 times per second. There are 1000 milliseconds in a second. The frame changes every 20 milliseconds.
Since the KINEXON system receives data at a frequency of 500 Hz, the frame change is also ten times faster – in two milliseconds. And data synchronization between KINEXON and Hawk-Eye occurs with an accuracy of one millionth of a second.
Sensors help to determine other important nuances, for example, the author of the goal. Remember when Cristiano Ronaldo touched the ball with his hair after serving Bruno Fernandes in the match against Uruguay and insisted that it was he who scored? FIFA later explained to ESPN: Ronaldo did not touch the ball, and it was possible to determine this precisely thanks to adidas technology. We wrote about it in more detail here .
Technology opens doors to a new world: creates a realistic 3D match model and tracks over 300 game metrics
KINEXON told how they tested the ball in Portugal, when Moreirense and Chaves were fighting for a place in the elite league. The match tracked over 300 different metrics in several categories: shot and pass speed, ball possession time, dribbling speed, acceleration and sprints – with and without the ball, even space control, pressing and counterattacks.
So, for example, it turned out that the winning goal was scored from a distance of 14.54 m at a ball field speed of 68.58 km / h, the fastest player accelerated by 33.72 km / h, the accuracy of Chaves’ passes during the match increased by three percent, and for Moreirense it fell by nine. 80% of fans were interested in advanced statistics.
According to Maximilian Schmidt, co-founder and managing director of KINEXON, this information will allow to share interesting data in real time, and subsequently analyze the performance of players even deeper. Nicholas Evans, Head of Football Research and Standards at FIFA Technology Innovation, expects all of these technologies to move into the world of video games in the future.
KINEXON creates more realistic 3D graphics. That is, any episode can be assessed through the eyes of the player – this is a very important nuance for assessing the mechanics of football and the decisions of football players in a particular situation. We hope that soon we will appreciate the coolness of these innovations in TV broadcasts.
Has the sensor degraded the properties of the ball? What are the players saying?
The ball was tested blindly in various countries, as well as in other competitions in Qatar (Arab Cup, Club World Cup), to find out if there are any differences for players between a regular and advanced ball. As it turned out, no one noticed the difference.
An earlier version of the KINEXON ball with sensors was tested in the German regional league, and the newest version was tested in the German club academy match.
But before the 2022 World Cup, England midfielder Kieran Trippier pointed out one nuance: “With every cross, I felt that the balls were a little different. It’s not about the heat. They seem to be a little lighter. It seems that if you hit harder, he will fly much further. Trippier’s reaction is understandable – the British are very attentive to the drawing of standard positions, and it is he who submits them.
Uruguayan national team goalkeeper Sergio Rochet noticed that the balls fly faster, and put it even more succinctly: “Year after year it becomes easier for forwards, and more difficult for goalkeepers.”
In general, there were very few reviews of new balls from World Cup participants. And this means that no one really noticed the difference.