Questions for ‘A robot referee can really keep its ‘eye’ on the ball’

a photo of Taylor Townsend on the tennis court holding a raquet and smiling

When Taylor Townsend, here, competes in World TeamTennis matches, robots now judge whether her serves and volleys land in or out of the court’s lines.

World TeamTennis

To accompany feature “A robot referee can really keep its ‘eye’ on the ball”


Before Reading:

1. If you were playing on a team in a championship game, which would you prefer to be the umpire making calls — a robot or a human? Why?

2. What kind of calls could a robot umpire make that would be more accurate than a person? When would having a person make a judgment call be better than a robot?

During Reading:

1.  What is Hawk-Eye Live? How is it being used in professional sports?

2.  Why would a tennis player prefer having a computer decide whether a ball is in or out?

3.  What technical advantages does Hawk-Eye Live have over a human umpire?

4.  What is TrackMan? What technology does it use to do its work?

5.  What data does TrackMan need to determine whether a baseball is in or out of the batter’s strike zone? When does the system have trouble doing its job?

6.  Why are gymnastics events so hard for a person to judge?

7.  What technology did Fujitsu engineers build into the computer system used to help judge gymnastics events? What other industry uses a similar technology?

8.  How does the Fujitsu computer technology track a gymnast’s flips and turns?

9.  Name some things that a human judge can do better than a robot referee.

10. In what ways might eliminating human error from sporting events change the experience for fans?

After Reading:

1. Do you think that computer systems like those you read about in this story make sports fairer?

2.  Would eliminating human umpires completely from judging sports be a good thing? Why or why not?


1. Excelling in a sport like gymnastics involves more than mathematical accuracy and precision. Would the beauty and grace of gymnastics be lost if robots are the only judges? How would that affect the gymnast’s motivation? How might that affect the fans watching the events? Explain your assessments.

2.  Why does a “bad call” by an umpire make a sporting event more exciting? Do bad calls help build team spirit among fans? Why or why not? Explain your answer.