Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing sports and elevating it to a whole new level. While it is true that statistics and quantitative analysis have played a central role in sports for a long time, AI is significantly impacting the way the game is strategized, played and engaging the audience. We see this trend pervading across Baseball, Tennis, Soccer, Football, Basketball and many others.
The 4 ways AI will continue to impact sports currently and transform it into the near future are – enhancing player performance, strategy & coaching, fan engagement & experience, transforming media & broadcasting.
AI has penetrated the locker room discussions with way better insights about the competition, the coach’s advice with better trends and your TV screens with faster highlights. That’s not all. AI is paving a smarter path to victory in sports for everyone from sportspersons to broadcasters, with real time game statistics for players and fans, game tactics prediction to enable the player to choose the right strategy and even alert the player in case of a potential decline in performance or injury. Technology has become pervasive in sports and a key contributor to its evolution both inside the stadium and outside enabling each player and team to be the best of themselves.
A combination of sensor technology and AI, helps coaches improve players’ technique. For example, in weight training – now virtually universal across sports – AI can provide real-time feedback to maximize the results of a workout and create personalized training regimens that busy coaches may not be able to provide. Wearables can also provide data around levels of strain and exertion, a player is experiencing and can signal that an activity should be stopped in order to prevent injury. This is particularly important at the high school level.
AI is having a major impact on strategic decisions coaches make, both before and during a game. Baseball is a classic example. Decisions about what line-up to field against opposing teams are now influenced as much by computer analysis from the front office as by the experience of the manager. Through a combination of wearable sensors and high speed cameras, AI platforms can now measure the speed, spin and placement of a tennis serve, a curve ball, a forward pass, a penalty kick and dozens of other similar actions, not to mention the motions and positioning in space of the players who perform them. All this data makes coaches better able to prepare players for competition. Equally important, AI can predict the chances of success for various game tactics. For example, some football coaches are now turning to AI to help them call the right plays during a game.
AI will surely become more and more important in the area of recruitment for college athletes and player selection in professional sports. Machine learning can find relationships that are not obvious but might play a significant role in a player’s contribution to a team. Sports teams, particularly at the professional level, are extremely competitive and will look for any possible edge, and that includes listening to what computers may have to say.
AI can now deliver advanced performance analytics, whether it’s finding clips of all the winning tactics or visual analysis of every play. This gives players and coaches a powerful tool to analyze how they performed, and explore their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, in the upcoming Roland-Garros, Infosys has partnered to develop Stats+, which re-orders the statistics in a live match based on its individual influence on the outcome of the match. This point by point, dynamic and live feature is based on the principles of AI/ML to enrich fan and player experience.
With the help of AI platforms, the cameras that now capture sporting events are also able to pick out the highlights of a game for distribution to television outlets or mobile devices. AI-based capabilities now extend to print as well. A natural language platform has been developed that transforms raw data from minor league baseball games into readable stories. With this capability, the Associated Press news service has increased its reporting capability and is now able to cover 13 minor leagues with 142 teams via AI.
At the Australian Open in 2019, AI Clips enabled a new wave of story-telling for AO’s media teams. AI Clips stitched together match data & video data and leveraged advanced analytical capabilities to create and automate rapid highlight packages. The snack-able content was generated in real-time with minimal human intervention, in a matter of seconds and with120 + different filters and 1000 combinations to choose from, creating an unparalleled viewing experience. Eventually, these power videos were consumed by fans across the world on Facebook, Twitter and other official online AO platforms.
AI in sports is here to stay, and as the technology improves through better sensors, processors and algorithms, it will become even more important. Whether through an internal IT organization or via external AI platforms, sports organizations now need AI to successfully compete at the highest levels.