Possible Implementation of Instant Replay

Here’s a proposal to help the referees make the right calls. This would make sure that teams don’t feel cheated after a match. I’ve heard the quote, “the referees are correct until proven incorrect,” and this would be a good way to make sure that the correct call is made. It is very similar to the NFL style of challenges. The plan:

Qualifications would be unchanged.

Elims: A fisheye camera would be placed at midfield, possibly right near the FTA’s table (I’m not sure of the real name of that table). The 6 Minute Timeout would be changed to a 6 Minute Timeout/Challenge. Let’s say a questionable call is made in a close match. An alliance captain could approach the head referee before the next match starts and ask for a challenge of a specific point of the match, such as an unscored assist or penalty. Your 6 Minute Timeout would then start, and the referees would pull the footage of the match from the camera and begin to rewatch and rescore the match. They could watch as much or as little as they like in the 6 minutes. At the end of the six minutes, they would deliver their ruling. If they confirm the call that was made real-time, the challenging alliance’s timeout would be consumed just like the way it is now. However, if the call on the field is reversed and it changes the outcome of the match, the challenging alliance’s Timeout/Challenge would not be consumed and they could take another timeout or challenge.


How would you track calls that were made with specific events on the field? It adds a whole bunch of overhead to be able to say definitively “There were 5 fouls called in the match, but this one at the 1:56 minute mark was missed”.

Add to the fact that incidents in the far corners of the field wouldn’t be so easy to see from a single angle/things could easily still be missed.

The referees and scoring people are all volunteer staff and they are doing the best they possibly can.

I’ve run about 100 VEX events and have given the same statement at the beginning. “The referee’s rule is final. If you have a problem with the referee’s ruling, see me as the event organizer. You can tell me anything you want, and I will listen closely. At the end of the discussion I will say to you ‘The referee’s rule is final’. I may talk to the referee about future calls, but I won’t override their ruling.”

Trying to put up an instant replay, etc. isn’t needed. This isn’t the NFL, it’s a high school robotics competition. And I’ll repeat my mantra, “it’s not about the robot.”

I will say that I have watched matches from the stands, and it’s a far different experience than watching the event from the field. I got invited to watch from the sidelines at a Drexel Event. The lights, the noise, the robots being about 10 feet away is a lot of sensory overload. If you get a chance, wrangle an invite to stand on the sidelines. It will change your opinion on refereeing.

I would never want to be a referee. Well that’s not true, I’d love to be a “Head Ref”, since that would give me access to call Frank and chat. :rolleyes:

-1 on the instant replay.

Hands you Pandora’s box

There have been more than a few times I myself would like to have seen a replay on a dicey ruling. But there are many concerns. Having it just for the Elims would be problematic.

  1. Match play varies a great deal between Qualifications and Eliminations.
  2. Elims last 6 hours or less.
  3. Takes up space on the field/truck where it is at a premium.
  4. Has to be maintained so it doesn’t crash.
  5. Finding persons neutral enough to operate it.
  6. Challenges already take up a lot of time.
  7. Lessons are lost by teams not learning how to argue their case.
  8. Costing a team a valuable time out is problematic.

The short answer is that while it is a great notion, I cannot support it.

I’d like to address some of your concerns.

This is true. The only reason why I included this plan for just eliminations was in order to not slow down the event even further.

Again, true. However, if teams are making challenges losing (i.e. not having matches overturned) it would be just like taking timeouts.

Right again! This is a disadvantage of the proposal.

Right again. However, I think it would be fairly reliable, as it would only be one camera that just runs constantly.

I’m not sure I understand you. The referees would be operating it, and they should be neutral.

That is why this proposal puts a penalty on being incorrect in your challenge- a loss of timeout. It encourages teams to think before they challenge.

Do you mean the question box, usually aside the FTA table? If so, “arguing your case” isn’t allowed, it is only for clarifications on rules and calls.

This is why a team would have to think hard before they challenged a call.

Thanks for your input!

If you believe that it’s harder to watch the matches from the sidelines then why are referees positioned there? Logically, following your statement suggests that referees should be positioned in the stands. I do not agree with this. If the referees feel that being close to the field inhibits their ability to make the correct call then they should discuss moving to a different position so that they can make the correct call. There is no excuse to not position the referees in the location they are most comfortable with. For the last 22 years the referees have been fine on the sidelines. If it was an issue someone would have brought it up by now.

I personally agree with OP’s proposition. Qualification matches don’t matter nearly enough to allow teams to contest calls. However in eliminations a major call made incorrectly is often the difference between attending CMP or not. That’s a pretty big deal. I will agree with you that FRC is not about the robots. However, unfairly crushing the hopes of an entire teams can be very discouraging for students. “Life isn’t fair” is also not a legitimate excuse. FRC is not about teaching students that life isn’t fair, there is no reason to not expect the best that everyone in FRC has to offer, students, mentors, and volunteers alike. If we have the means to avoid issues such as poor calls and it affects all participants in only a positive way I can’t think of a good reason not to support it.

I would like to point to an example at CMP last year that I personally experienced that is an excellent testament to the argument for the ability to contest calls.

In the finals on curie field last year we (1678), 148, and 862 were playing 4814, 67, and 1918. During the first match 1918 and 67 both climbed the pyramid at the same time and by result of a field fault 67’s climbing claw lifted the top section of the pyramid causing 1918’s claws to slip, and they fell. 862 was driving around the pyramid, clearly not in contact with pyramid, you can go back and watch the video, 862 wasn’t even close to the pyramid when 1918 fell. However, 862 was penalized for the fall and 1678, 148, and 862 were red-carded for the match resulting in a loss. After the match representatives from 1918, the team that gained the advantage form the call, went to the head referee to contest the call. Due to FRC’s current rules, the ruling was not reversed. Then, during either match 2 or 3 (I can’t recall which) 148 was hit by 4814 while setting up to climb the pyramid incurring a foul on 4814’s alliance. This in turn caused them to lose the match. I’m not really sure if the penalty should have been incurred on 4814, but since there’s no instant replay there was no way for either alliance to contest it.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that those finals matches, although they were exciting, didn’t feel entirely fair for either alliance. Despite winning and taking the curie division title, it didn’t really feel like a genuine win to me. I felt pretty bad taking a match from the other alliance on fouls and I’m sure that the other teams didn’t feel great about winning a match on fouls either. Since two of the three matches were decided by fouls, we effectively played a best-of-1 set which doesn’t seem favorable in the spirit of fair competition. If FRC had instant replay or the ability to contest calls both of these issues could have been resolved and I think many more people wouldn’t have felt better about the outcome of those matches.

I see your point that instant replay may make FRC too much about the competition and not enough about co-opertition. But I think only employing instant replay during elims, when it matters, and only giving each alliance the chance to contest only one foul would be a good balance.


Matches already take too long between, and the technical abilities for a replay of a video are nontrivial in relative terms of equipment and volunteers.

Refs call them live, and as fair as they can. Suck it up and accept their best judgment.

Sorry if that’s harsh.

I’ll second this. For what it takes to make this happen, the benefits aren’t worth it.

I’d like to again specify that this would not lengthen events, as it would be equal to teams taking a timeout due to a damaged robot.

Also, can you elaborate on how the ability to record and replay the match would be nontrivial?

Good discussion guys, thanks.

First off, you’ve got to remember that there are lots of people in the particular area suggested. If you’re lucky, you only have the MC, Game Announcer, Head Ref, a couple other refs, FTA(s), and a couple human players, plus a couple of field resetters dashing in and out, not counting the cross-traffic of people with field access crossing through to talk to someone or get a drink, all within the view of a fisheye or similar lens. Lots of places for the view to be blocked. To avoid them, you’ve GOT to put the camera higher up. No way around it. (I’ll ignore the ways of getting it up higher, as those are relatively simple to solve.)

Now that your camera is higher up, how are you going to do the following:

  1. start recording?
  2. stop recording?
  3. get the recording down off of the camera to something that can view it at a decent resolution and isn’t already being taken up for something critical?
  4. view the recording?

I’d say that you can’t use wireless connections, except possibly Bluetooth, or a remote for the camera. Too much risk of hacking or of field interference.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that you’d need a pretty high-resolution camera, which costs money?

One other thing–it will take more time than currently. I can sure think of a way to try to game the system… But to put it bluntly, currently one timeout card per alliance is given. Using this proposed system, an alliance could theoretically take two or more timeouts, one or more if they have a question and win, and one to fix a robot.

Now, I do have a working theory for how I’d run instant replay, and it’s quite significantly different, both in terms of the number of cameras required, where they come from and are located, AND in how to call for a replay. I started a thread on the topic last year or the year before, where the theory was sort of hashed out. But, it hasn’t been put into practice anywhere that I know about yet, so I’m reluctant to even suggest it to FIRST. (Any offseasons want to give it a try, drop me a line and I’ll send the documentation your way.)

It’s not the ability to record the match and replay it that’s the problem - it would be pretty easy to set up a dozen GOPRO cameras around the field that would catch most of the action. We’ll use some magic hand waiving to solve the other technical problems of starting and stopping the video, streaming the video to a screen the refs can access, and keeping the video in sync with the correct match.

The problem comes in with tracking calls the refs make during the match to specific actions on the field. Say your team issues a challenge “At 1:56 a penalty should have been called on XXXX for Y”. Sure enough, the ref views the video and sees that the foul did occur. How does he know the team didn’t already receive the penalty for it? The scoring system isn’t linked to actions on the field - refs just mark fouls, tech fouls, yellow and red cards as they go. And it’s not always the closest ref that catches a foul - I’ve seen refs call them from across the field because the one nearby wasn’t looking in the right direction.

This isn’t football, where there’s a stop in action after a few seconds of play and a chance to issue a challenge before further action takes place. Even in football, you lose the chance to challenge a call once the next play starts.

Solve the logistical nightmare of matching the calls that are made to the actions on the field, and you might have something. But I don’t see an easy way to do so, and wouldn’t want to put that additional burden on already stressed refs.

OP Thanks for your input, But I hate to say it, but this is never going to happen Not in the near future anyway. Also this has been discussed countless times. For my .02.
You would need a camera in every corner, if not more. A fixed one will not get all the angles that you will need.

Also The refs do the best job they can but they are still only human. Yes they do miss a call now and then but that is why there are at least 5 refs on the field at any given time. Very rarely do they miss calls. Also 90%of the time does a foul/ penalty change the outcome of a match. Yes I have seen it happen, but it happens maybe 1 out of 100 times.

Here’s a quick suggestion, make the instant replay camera the only camera used for the webcasts. Make it a fisheye cam like they use for recording FIM matches, and have it be the ONLY cam used for web streams. This would cut production costs (by eliminating all the cameras and cameramen they currently have), and let the people watching the web stream watch the robots for the whole match instead of someone wiggling joysticks for 30 seconds at a time, as the currents stream seems to do.

The camera would be a high end USB cam connects to a PC controlled by FMS. It would automatically start recording as soon as all robots are connected, and automatically stop 10 seconds after the match ends. Videos would be available for teams to save off the PC or to upload to TBA at the end of the day.

Just saying, the OPs idea isn’t a totally unreasonable proposal. It solves a few logistical problems in neat ways, and gives the teams the huge benefit of being able to challenge bad calls. Perhaps this isn’t the exact way to do it, but if we continue to say its impossible, it will continue to never be a reality. This is 2014. We should be able to figure out how to automatically record matches at a robotics competition.

The recording isn’t an issue at all. As the team that ran the Inland Empire live stream I can vouch for our programmers that the technical aspect was not very difficult.

Good idea. How about a full rescoring of the match? In the 6 minutes, the referees would be able to view the match all the way through twice, this time with the luxury of pausing it.

I also like the idea of ‘combining’ the instant replay and livestream cameras, or using one for the other purpose.

And if a team gets two extra timeouts because incorrect calls caused them to lose two matches? I believe that it isn’t bad.

Set up an acceptable view for instant replay, use it for the stream and rewind the stream.

Why is it whenever we have a problem with human error (i.e. ball inflation & 25" inner width 2x4 boxes) we need whole new systems to solve it? We don’t need people doing trig for camera placement, creating cost estimates, researching video camera tech.

My head elc mentor (and I suspect most of yours could too) can hook up an R-Pi with a 1080p wide-angle camera and an Ethernet cable to another with a keyboard and a monitor to record/play back full field video in less time than it takes to pump up a ball. I could figure it out in a day probably.

Why is everything so hard (and harsh)? We can build swerves, track vision targets, and launch a 24"-26" ball 50ish feet… but we can’t record a video?
Where did all these come from? http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6fCSvDccI_5w3O79_bjoh1iAyo73NSrP

Sorry, this is a little indignant however, this is actually not hard… just different.