More foul feedback

3.1.4 Penalty Assignment

Upon a rule violation, FOUL or TECHNICAL FOUL points will immediately be credited to the opposing ALLIANCE. Values are defined in Table 3-1.

As I understand, when a FOUL is assessed, the referee will wave their flag, point at the offending robot, then log the foul into their screen as soon as it is safe to do so.

I was wondering if more information could be built into this system. In an ideal situation, the ref would have enough time to log the offending robot and the rule violation; the offending team would receive immediate feedback during the match on their fouls (maybe in their driver station?) In a realistic situation, the ref would just log the offending robot.

In addition, the foul could be displayed for the audience on the big screen (captured in the live feed). This would also serve to time-stamp the foul and allow later discussion and review - not necessarily to change the outcome of a match, but to allow the GDC and referees to use the material as training footage for later regional competitions. I know that Soccer referees do this all the time, and it is a valuable training tool.

This sort of logging also allows a team to adjust their game play, as well as statisticians to filter results and improve algorithms.


I think the robot identification could happen, as it does already for turning the DS lights yellow on a bad climb. However, do realize that without at least more training and likely anyway without more refs*, the additional logging would result in missing other foul calls. I’ve already witnessed this as a coach and experienced it as a ref–often there’s time, but when there’s not, there’s really not. You could well be missing things that change the outcome of the match. So it’s a tradeoff. It’d also significantly complicates the ref panels. At least at first but possibly permanently, it’d slow down all feedback overall.

As for what the foul is, I think last year’s hand signal idea could be developed for the purpose (e.g., used for difficult-to-tell rather and simply ‘common’ signals). Albeit then you go back to the training and call time tradeoffs. There’s a reason (well, probably several) there are no hand signals this year.

I don’t see how video logging could work reliably, though. It’s exceedingly rare for the camera(s) to be pointed at the right place, at the right time, from the right angle to see the violation. Not a big problem for soccer-style teaching (not like you’d use them all anyway), but a huge problem trying to capture for the crowd real-time. It’d be a luck of the draw thing, which could well stir up serious animosity and doubt, particularly if the only aspect missing is the last one (angle–it’s everything with the pyramids this year). Soccer refs don’t have the annually-changing field obstacles with which FIRST refs must deal. You’d also likely have to train the AV crew on the game somewhat, and I don’t know how feasible that is everywhere (provably not very)

The crowd might be able to get it announced real-time, but that removes/limits the ability for refs to consult from different angles, which can result in withdrawing the foul, particularly with G27 and G30 this year. It requires the GA to be on our radio channel and puts more pressure on them. (I’ve never been an FRC GA, so no further comment.) It also goes back to the whole training and call time issue–the more time you spend on one call, the more likely it is to compromise your ability to call another. Still, it might be worth an off-season pilot if anyone’s interested.

*The latter is essentially a non-starter, and a significant increase in the former basically is also (unless you want fewer refs, and/or more pushed-to-the-brink VCs).

I think the simplest and most achievable feedback would be to have a foul & technical foul counter for each alliance on the score overlay. This could be done this year (score is already updating for fouls better than disc scoring) In the future, if you changed the ref panels to include specific teams, maybe you could change the color of that team (maybe blue & purple since red, yellow, green already used). Even better the color behind the team number could be a bar graph of their fouls.

Video replay and good camera coverage is really not realistic at the majority of the events. I would be happy if the camera work just got better at following the game for webcasts and archives. Camera direction is a difficult task, but hopefully it can improve (plenty of threads about this).

Could you describe what the interface looks like? How difficult would it be to have one or two volunteers logging fouls? Put the refs all on radios so they can speak the fouls and not worry about logging it. This gives them the benefit of being able to simultaneously watch the field while logging, instead of looking down at the UI.

We’ve seen that a properly positioned camera with a fish eye lens captures the entire field. Another possible option is a camera positioned in the lighting / speakers above the field looking down. The idea is the audience doesn’t necessarily see this view, the AV crew can focus on what they think is interesting, but the footage is there later for the GDC.

I’ve attached a photo of the teleop standard ref panel for this year (the head ref panel looks different). I can mostly log without looking by the time quals start if I’m already standing at it. Having separate volunteers logging would, in addition to requiring more volunteers, also require better radios at least in some venues. We already use them for technical fouls and to consult on others, but I’ve never been through an event without losing useful radio comm in at least a handful of matches. Still, it’s an interesting idea. I’d say it’s worth piloting, though it’ll take some iteration if it’s really feasible.

Again, angle. The fisheye type of footage FiM (Kettering) does is great for watching matches, but it’s almost impossible to reliably determine contact from such a setup. In fact, of all the calls I made and witnessed at NYC and Horsham, a distinct majority would be entirely ambiguous and non-obvious from a Kettering-type camera, no matter how apparent they are up close from the correct POV. Almost every G27 and G30 would be unclear, most G24s and G29s, common G12s, forget about G37, almost everything in 3.2.7 for the far stations, potentially G18-1 and G23… In fact, to put it in perspective, the changes to the game if that’s all the refs could see would be mind-boggling for strategic-minded alliances.

Overhead views might solve a lot of those problems. I think you could get it to show most G27 and G30s for pyramid, though it’s hard to say without seeing it, and some loading zone G30s would be unclear. Other obviously difficult ones would be the common feeder G37s, low goal G12s, chassis G24s, and some G29s. Looking back, G28 last year would have been hard, and G25 could have gotten false positives. Still, it’s nice, but the big problem is that many events–particularly MAR and FiM districts–don’t do such rigging, meaning there’s no cost-effective way to implement bird’s eye camera placement.

I do miss the referee hand signals we had last year that indicated what the foul was for as it was being called. I’m sure the drive team never had a chance to watch the referee’s, but the scouts in the stands found it useful. (Of course some referee’s were very confident in displaying those signals and making a call while others were barely discernible.)

Some announcers after each match do take the time to announce the fouls, and early in the tournament explain why the foul was called. This seems to be very inconsistent depending on what information the head ref passes along and how much time there is before the next match once the final score has been released. Since we are trying to get the general public to view this as a spectator event I would much rather have the announcer say “illegal contact with the opponents pyramid resulting in a 20 point technical foul and full climb points awarded” than just G27. I don’t expect the general public to memorize rule numbers.

In most spectator sports they call out the jersey number of the offending player, not just the team the foul is against. I’m all for finding a better way to inform teams and spectators in real time. They often affect the score more than offensive scoring.

If this was built into the real time scoring system, it wouldn’t take a guy on the microphone to try and keep up. Curious spectators can just look at the feed.

I’m thinking if drive teams had immediate feedback they could intelligently discuss the ruling with the head referee right after the match instead of having to wait for the final score to show up to know there even was a penalty.

Good goal, but unless you can figure out a concise way to communicate the actual nature of every foul, every match, every year into the live feed, I suspect you’ll still need the announcer to translate for the laypeople, or risk alienating mainstream observers. Good news is that the GA can do it live (basically), based either on the ref’s radios or on the rule numbers sent to them and hopefully the team’s DS.

So to recap, the current iteration of the suggested pilot would be: refs on radios --> logging volunteers --> or +]] team & rule to GA --> rule to team’s DS + team to live display

This involves many changes:

  • Same Referees
    …good radios
    …no ref stands
  • (2?) Foul Logging Volunteers
    …same ref radios
    …new interface: more complex, still fast, but operators’ undivided gaze
  • New Real-Time Display
    …at least foul points caused per team
    …could show rules, but I think this is a low value-add for the confusion/crowdedness
  • Communicate to Teams
    …Option 1: sends rule # to team’s DS
    …Option 2: coaches listen to GA
    …Option 3: coaches listen to GA, and GA(?) turns DS lower lights

I’ve probably missed things, but even this is a significant investment:

  • New logging interface
  • New live display
  • 2 more volunteers, those these might be able to double as late-job field resetters (i.e counting feeder discs, not opening the gate)
  • Probable: 2+ more radios for each event
  • Optional: new DS connection
  • Optional: new GA light controls
  • Potential: tricolor DS Christmas lights
  • saves replacing/maintaining ref stands

Note: a minimum value add, separate from this whole idea, is to display alliance foul points separately (in addition to combined into) the match

Other concerns might include:

  • Length of the chain before audience & teams get the feedback (ref sees, ref says, volunteer logs --> announcer says)
  • Potential embarrassment, but I’d hope this is outweighed by the learning experience and transparency benefits
  • Additional training for loggers & GA (and refs)
  • Additional points of failure

If this is correct, next steps:

  • Get more than just an alum/former mentor, coach and a ref/coach/alum driver in this
    …Next at least: a head ref, field supervisor, GA, FTA. Preferably multiple plus some field resetters and more coaches. I can start this ball rolling with some.
  • Examine the software issues
    …Maybe an FTA and/or CSA to start; if you get them interested, they’ll hopefully to the next step
  • At some point, examine costs
    …This will likely have to go up to Manchester?

That sounds about right. Some of the items in the list could be done in parallel, but that’s not a big deal.

Also keep in mind that certain field elements are redone every year, such as the video overlay.

Isn’t basically everything employed perennially? Or do you mean actually recreated? (If so, why?)
By ‘items on the list’, do you mean the next steps or the chain of communication? (yeah, lots of lists, sorry)

The scoring software and related items seem to be redone every year, as the game changes every year.

And yes, in the chain of communication, certain items towards the end can happen in parallel. For instance, once the infraction is logged, the information can be distributed immediately.

Ok. I don’t know much about software, though externally the ref panels and most of what I see at the scoring table barely changed this year. The ref panels not at all, barring the climb lights. After the capital investment, I’m not sure I see any additional reoccurring cost over what they do now certainly now. They don’t have to maintain the ref panels (which live a hard life), and I don’t see the logging panels changing more than the ref ones did if they keep the foul/tech foul and <G#> setup.

The team DS interface option might be harder; I don’t know how much that’s changing internally year to year.

Yes. (Isn’t that what I said?) I think it can be 3 steps total: ref radios, volunteer logs, score displays. (The last two happen almost simultaneously.) The GA can be on the ref channel so they don’t have to wait for the logging to give the announcement and/or control the lights, or they can do it based on the log as the score displays. Of course, this still is slower than ref sees + ref logs, but hopefully once people get used to it, it’s not much slower.

Albeit in reality some calls will be later. Especially this year we had to consult on the radios for a second to make sure it actually was contact (or what have you) from multiple angles. Those pyramids are so darn tricky. Better to get it right than to get it early though, I think.

This also opens the question of what to do if someone in the chain makes a mistake. If the team responds to the call and changes their behavior, is there any recourse for them? If not, will they be less likely to listen to calls they think are incorrect? There was at least one similar incident this year, where a ref mistakenly called a bad climb, and the team came down but the action made them miss the climb again. Ok, so one could argue the team was at fault for not knowing they would miss if they tried again, but imagine a less controlled (not single robot) situation.