Tennis player readying to serve. Photo credit: Gonzalo Facello
When you see AI and sports in the same phrase, you might think about the NPC that beat you 6-0 in your last Fifa match... but AI is more involved in the sport industry than you'd think.
AI is revolutionizing the way athletes train and compete. From computer vision for improving athlete’s techniques to predictive modeling that analyzes past matches, AI can help athletes and coaches better understand their game.
We dive into the ways AI is transforming sport performance and strategy.
Runner on a track. Photo credit: Braden Collum
Performing well on game day comes down to how well an athlete trained and prepared beforehand. Advances in AI technology are allowing athletes and coaches to optimize their training so they crush it during competition.
Wearables, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, use sensors to measure biometric data like heart rate, speed, and distance traveled. This data can be examined in real-time to offer athletes performance insights and offer personalized training plans to improve specific key metrics.
Computer Vision analyzes video footage and tracks athletes' motions using machine learning algorithms. This technology can detect trends in an athlete's technique and give recommendations on how to improve and what exercises might help them. Imagine a Sunday league footballer who could benefit from a Premier League Level coach's advice.
Virtual reality paired with AI can take recorded competitions and create a simulator that athletes use to practice, allowing them to experience various scenarios and obstacles without having to physically strain themselves. Golfers can hit the greens in the winter and tennis players can train without a partner.
Coach and team strategizing during a match. Photo credit: Quyn Phạm
Winning the season championship doesn’t happen without a sports strategy. AI is also shaking up sports strategy. Coaches and athletes can use machine learning algorithms to analyze massive quantities of data to uncover patterns and trends, and then enhance their game strategy and tactics.
AI can help coaches develop their team's playing style. By analyzing data on player performance, they can build a style that optimizes players' strengths and minimizes their flaws. A basketball coach might decide to switch up their offensive strategy if data shows that player #43 makes over 70% of their 3-pointers.
Understanding your opponents is just as important as understanding your team. Predictive modeling can be used to anticipate the maneuvers of opponents. Coaches can build a plan that takes into consideration their opponents' strengths and weaknesses by studying data on prior performance, giving them a leg up on the competition. Never trust anyone who told you penalty sessions are a lottery…
Is AI Fair?
While AI can give an advantage to those that use it, there are also some potential implications and limitations of AI in sports.
AI systems gather enormous amounts of data. Teams and organizations using AI must therefore comply with GDPR regulations like gathering consent from players to process their data and keeping data up-to-date.
As all AI systems learn from data sets created by humans, there is always a chance that analyses become biased. Data has to be ample enough and systems must be well-trained and monitored often to avoid perpetuating existing biases.
The use of AI also brings up the argument of whether AI is fair to all parties. If one team has the best AI technologies to assess player performance and develop strategies and the other doesn’t, is it a fair game?
The challenge for humans working with AI is to create appropriate regulations and guidelines for ethics around what we do.
The Future of Sport and AI
There are plenty of exciting possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead for the future of sports as AI continues to advance and shape the industry. We are just beginning to see how this technology can be applied in many ways.
What are your thoughts on the use of AI in sports? This year we will have an entire hall at VivaTech dedicated to the Future of Sport. Come discuss your ideas on the subject this June.
Book your VivaTech 2023 pass here.