Taekwondo case study – Automatic Scoring

Similar to karate, Olympic Taekwondo is a point based sparring sport.  During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there were several incidents involving scoring that brought the sport on the verge of being excluded from the next Olympic Games.  In one instance, in the closing seconds of a bout between Sarah Stevenson of Britain and Chen Zhong of China, the judges failed to notice a high head-kick from Ms. Stevenson, which would have put her ahead by a point. She was ruled the loser, until the decision was reversed and she went on to win a bronze.  In another instance, Canadian Ivett Gonda lost 2:0 to Hanna Zajc of Sweden. However, Gonda’s coach Shin Wook Lim launched a protest because he believed that Canadian athlete earned as many as seven or eight points in the match.  The appeal was not successful in this case.

As a result, World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) faced a real possibility of the sport being removed from the Olympics.  So, WTF turned to technology.  They have developed a wireless automatic scoring system.  The vest of taekwondo practitioner contains an impact sensor, which detects a magnet sewn inside the foot gear of the opponent. As the opponent’s foot approaches the body, the sensor kicks in. The impact of such blows lasts for no longer than 30-40 milliseconds and an embedded processor determines the force of the hit. The system has two sensors that record two separate readings, and calculate the average. If this exceeds a certain threshold, the score is relayed wirelessly to an electronic scoreboard.

The results were significant.  2012 Olympics went practically without a hitch, and objective judging contributed to wider diversity among winning athletes.

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