How AI Is Changing Sports
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Artificial intelligence (AI) essentially refers to machines performing tasks such as prediction, reading, planning, recognizing faces and signs, and talking that previously only people could do. Now with artificial intelligence machines can recognize and identify specific faces in a crowd of hundreds of people with high accuracy and detect credit card fraud almost instantaneously in a sea of millions of legitimate credit card transactions around the world. Most every aspect of life has or will feel the effects of AI which includes sports as well. Many elements of sports appear ripe for the effects of AI. AI provides strong predictive powers such as the outcome of games, which gamblers and fantasy sports enthusiasts will find very interesting, but more importantly, coaches and players can use predictions and game simulations to prepare game plans like never before. Coaches already spend a great deal of time reviewing videos of opponents to search for weaknesses and opportunities. The Lincoln, Nebraska based company Hudl, considered by Fast Money to be one of fastest growing companies in America and the fastest growing company in Nebraska, uses video and analytics to help teams analyze their performance in real time in a number of sports from basketball to football and soccer to volleyball. Using a product from Hudl called Sportscode Elite, coaches can get real time in game analyses of team performance from video that allows players and coaches the opportunity to adjust their strategy. What would have taken a team of analysts and coaches hours to prepare Hudl turns around in an instant. Hudl pricing varies widely. According to the Hudl website, single sport packages for high schools start at $800 per year for the bronze package up to $3000 per year for the premium Platinum package. Although not trivial in pricing, advanced AI analytics have come into reach for high school and club teams not just top tier university and professional programs.
In-game analytics only begins to describe the potential of AI to affect sports. Leading a team during a game reflects only a fraction of a coach’s responsibilities. Coaching also revolves around training athletes to attain their very best performance, and AI provides unprecedented tools for performance improvement. Using video and slow-motion analysis, AI helps in improving everything from learning better field positions to refining a tennis racquet, golf club, or baseball bat swing. Using video footage of accomplished athletes in action, AI learns the elements of great sports techniques. After studying great players, new AI driven tools analyze the technique of any athlete working to improve their game. According to Golf Digest, the AI driven swing analyzer Golf 2 from Zepp (retails for $149) uses a sensor attached to the back of the golfer’s glove and working through a smartphone produces a three-dimensional rendering of the swing. Moreover, the application provides instant feedback on how to improve one’s swing. Zepp also offers their technology for improving tennis racquet and baseball bat swing.
Artificial intelligence stands to affect many aspects of our lives, and sport is no exception. Once the domain of the most elite collegiate, Olympic, and professional teams, AI driven analytics now serves as an affordable augmentation of the coach’s tool set to help his or her team prepare for games. Additionally, coaches can even adjust strategy during the game based on advanced AI analytics streaming real-time based video of the game from companies such as Hudl. Coaching involves more than in game strategy, and new tools using AI now appear as affordable applications that run on smartphones to improve techniques such as swinging a tennis racquet or golf club. AI will also one day learn not only how to train healthy athletes but venture into the important and difficult area of helping injured athletes to better train and get healthy.
Dr. Smith’s career in scientific and information research spans the areas of bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, toxicology, and chemistry. He has published a number of peer-reviewed scientific papers. He has worked over the past seventeen years developing advanced analytics, machine learning, and knowledge management tools to enable research and support high level decision making. Tim completed his Ph.D. in Toxicology at Cornell University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Washington.
You can buy his book on Amazon here. (Digital format coming soon)