Research on use of AI could help in upgrading replay quality: Star (Sports) head Sanjog Gupta

Kushan Sarkar
·4-min read

New Delhi, Apr 5 (PTI) Cricket coverage in the coming days could feature extensive use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which would enhance the quality of replays and make decision making a lot more easier for umpires, says Sanjog Gupta, head of Sports, Star and Disney India.

Artificial Intelligence refers to simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The ideal characteristic of AI is its ability to rationalise and take actions that have the best chance of achieving a specific goal.

'You will see over the next 12 months the quality of replays required to make the decision improve significantly. What will happen with better technology is that decisions will start becoming more and more accurate and more precise,' Gupta told PTI in an interview.

'So I think it's a matter of continuing to invest in technology and continuing to constantly upgrade the quality of cameras.' Star is the leading broadcaster in the Indian sporting landscape with acquisition of major properties including the IPL, Indian cricket team's assignments at home along with all marquee ICC events.

Gupta is confident the research and development work being carried out will yield positive results in terms of technological advancement in quality of replays, which will also make decision making easier in touch and go cases.

Currently for cricket broadcasting, 24-28 normal cameras are used along with five to six super slow-mo dedicated cameras for replays.

However, Star's R&D team is looking at the potential use of AI, where normal cameras can also be converted into slow-mo cameras, giving them all 34 camera options for replays, which isn't the case now.

'When you are at a stadium, you have a combination of normal cameras, ultra slow motion cameras, and super slow motion cameras. And depending on the frame rate, you're able to slow down the speed of the action accordingly.

'What we're actually working on is these software, powered by artificial intelligence, which enables us to convert the output of any camera into super slow motion,' Gupta explained.

He didn't wish to get into the debate around 'Soft Signal' as it is the ICC's prerogative but believes that successful use of AI could give umpires more options with more camera angles.

'It may not have the same (quality) level of super slow motion as the native, super slow motion camera gives you, it can be at least significantly better than what it is today, but only if this technology works.

'And if we were able to deploy it at a scale, it will allow us to convert the output of any of those 34-35 cameras into super slow mo.' Empty stands could be used for better camera positioning =================================== Gupta, a veteran in the broadcasting industry, believes that live coverage at closed door events starting with last IPL in the UAE was a 'learning experience' for them as they understood that adversity could be turned into an opportunity.

'If we can find ways of using this opportunity of empty stands to actually better represent the game, then it actually becomes a better experience for those millions of fans who are still there,' Gupta said.

But how can it be possible? 'Because (when) the stands are empty, you can place the camera wherever you want. And that gives us the opportunity to look at the game or present the game very differently, and cover it differently. So, for example, we started doing a lot of high angle shots.

'And high angle shots basically give you a much closer look at the player and also avoid the stands all around it. The other thing that we started doing was because we will now not cut to fans in the stadium or in the stands, we could show more replays.' Fan Engagement in difficult times ======================= 'What we're doing for IPL 2021 is actually giving our commentators the ability to interact with any of the fans who are present in the virtual 'Fan Wall'.

'So if you are a part of 'Fan Wall' and wearing a CSK jersey when MS Dhoni goes out to bat, the commentator can actually pull up our video and have a conversation with us about CSK and what we feel in that moment,' Gupta said.

'The line that I know, that the team has been working with to develop the creatives around the centre think of the ideas is, every couch or every living room is a stand for us now,' he added.

100 commentators and 4 bio-bubbles ======================= Gupta also informed that this time, an unprecedented 100 commentators across languages, including English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali will be part of the IPL.

'At any given point of time we will have four observational bio-secure bubbles, with the largest of them being in Mumbai for the central production, which houses more than 400 crew members.

'But, in totality, across the entire operation, there will be more than 700 crew members deployed and committed to delivering IPL 2021,' he concluded. PTI KHS KHS AH AH