Scoring Gymnastics, Bring the Computers

Tammy and I have been watching a lot of the Beijing Olympics this year. Tammy is a huge gymnastics fan and we’ve been watching nearly all of the coverage this year. A few years ago gymnastics changed its scoring system to make it less subjective and the commentators, particularly Al Trautwig, love to recount the changes all the time, over and over.

However, even with all these changes gymnastics is filled with questions on scores. I’m writing this as all the commentators are scratching their head trying to figure out why Nastia Liukin got such a low score on her vault. On top of this, there have been significant delays as judges stare at frame by frame replays trying to figure out how to score the routine.

My response, bring on the computers!

I’m guessing the technology may not be there right now but only because people haven’t tackled the problem. You could easily see how a combination of real-time 3D scanning lasers around the routine area, in combination with some simple instrumentation that is integrated into the gymnasts uniform and completely unobtrusive, could provide the data for algorithmic analysis of the gymnasts motion with ridiculous levels of precision.

After capturing to extreme resolution and frequency the routine, a warehouse of machines could analyze the data and determine exactly what happened. How many degrees the shoulders turned; how many millimeters was the step on the landing; exactly how close were the feet. This could remove the subjectivity and timing of human judging and make such a subjective sport objective and farer for the athletes.

Jamie Thingelstad @jthingelstad

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