Famim Ahmed

Researcher, Dismislab
Fifa offside technology does not need chips in player’s body
This article is more than 1 year old

Fifa offside technology does not need chips in player’s body

Famim Ahmed

Researcher, Dismislab

A misinformation spread throughout the mainstream and social media regarding the special technology used in football world cup in Qatar. In a bid to explain the semi-automated offside technology, it was claimed that just like there are chips set in the football, so are chips inserted into the players’ bodies to ascertain their movement.

Dismislab has found no evidence of such a claim.

A Facebook group named ‘Gyaner jagat’ (The world of knowledge) posted on 26 November 2022 explaining how the world cup was using AI. A portion of the post states,”…. In addition to that, each player’s body is also fitted with a similar chip. So, it collects data from 29 points (parts) of the player’s body, i.e. it collects data 50 times every 1 second and stores in a central computer used for Artificial Intelligence (image attached)…”

The claim is also found on various Facebook groups, pages, a blog post and a Jamuna TV report. Chips fitted in players’ bodies came up while explaining this new offside technology. Here are some samples in the slideshow.

And here is what Jamuna TV said in its report from the 1 minute 30 second mark: “The chip implanted in the players’ bodies has 29 data points. As you can see, these 29 data points at different joints of the players which ultimately determine whether a player was indeed offside.”

Factcheck

A basic internet search on offside technology found a post on FIFA website titled “Semi-Automated Offside Technology”. It states: The new technology uses 12 dedicated tracking cameras mounted underneath the roof of the stadium to track the ball and up to 29 data points of each individual player, 50 times per second, calculating their exact position on the pitch. The 29 collected data points include all limbs and extremities that are relevant for making offside calls. 

However, FIFA’s World Cup ball, known as ‘Al Rihla Pro‘, uses an IMU sensor. The sensor, placed right in the centre of the football, can transmit data 500 times per second.Similarly, in an event called ‘Living Football‘ held in 2021 on FIFA’s verified YouTube channel, Johannes Holzmüller, director of FIFA’s ‘Football Technology and Innovation’, said that this semi-automatic offside technology in football is based on ‘limb tracking’ or ‘skeletal tracking’ technology. There is no discussion of the use of sensors on the players’ bodies.

A detailed description of the aforementioned semi-automated offside technology was made available later from FIFA’s Digital Hub platform. That said, these data points are automatically identified on players’ bodies. There is no mention of measuring the players by adding anything to their bodies.

Besides, while searching for more information about ‘skeletal tracking’ technology, a clear explanation can be found on the website called ‘Real Sense’ of the famous computer chip manufacturer Intel. It says that ‘skeletal tracking’ technology uses sensors and depth cameras to track a person’s movements. The technology is similar to Hollywood special effects, but in this case, people do not have to wear any special clothing or markers.

That is, human movement can very much be tracked or monitored from outside the body with the help of sensors and depth cameras. No sensor or chip is needed in the body. A post titled “Types of Tracking Defined” on the Intel Real Sense site also provides a more detailed explanation of ‘skeletal tracking’.

According to FIFA’s official website, the American Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Australia’s Victoria University are involved in this cutting-edge technology for offside detection.

Dismislab reached out to Anette “Peko” Hosoi, co-founder of MIT’s Sports Lab, to learn more. She said, “It is absolutely not possible. I have never heard of players having microchips in their bodies before. I doubt any such technology is in use at all and it will not work either.”

So, the claim that the offside detection technology in Qatar Football World Cup used any kind of chip or sensor on players’ bodies is misleading.

However, in European club football, there is talk of using chips or sensors on players. With the help of this chip, it is possible to understand the body temperature, and heart rate of a player. But the proposed chips are said to be added not to the player’s body, but to the clothing.

Also, in 2016, Argentine football club Tigre announced ‘Passionate Tickets‘ for their ‘crazy fans’. It is basically a chip that spectators voluntarily insert into their bodies, which precludes the need for a physical ticket to enter the stadium. However, the club assured that no one’s personal information will be compromised as there is no tracker.