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Can AI revolutionise the way we play, watch, and understand sports?

As artificial intelligence infiltrates sports arenas and analytics, a new breed of tech is giving glimpses into sports' data-driven future

 By the CogX R&I team

July 09, 2024

The world of sports is a charmingly old-school domain. Traditions are revered, and seasoned veterans often call the shots from the sidelines.

At major sporting events, stats are still often tallied by hand. Coaches rely on their intuition to evaluate talent and make crucial decisions. Nevertheless, all these methods are ripe for bias and misinterpretation. Inevitably, they frequently create controversial decisions and missed opportunities. The problem extends even to supposedly cutting-edge tools. Despite the futuristic sheen of names like "advanced analytics", most stats are still created by humans inputting data they observe. The potential for errors and oversights is endless.

Yet, amidst this tradition-bound landscape, a new wave of innovation is emerging, one driven by data, poised to change the way we play, watch, and even understand sports. And central to this transformation is, of course, none other than artificial intelligence (AI).

A New Era in Sports Analytics

Sports have always been data-driven, but AI has elevated this reliance on statistics to unprecedented levels. In the past, coaches and analysts manually sifted through reams of data to make strategic decisions. Today, AI algorithms can process vast amounts of information in real-time, providing insights that were previously unattainable.

Take the NFL's team-up with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Their brainchild, an AI tool named Digital Athlete, helps NFL teams understand what individual players need to stay healthy and perform at their best by running millions of simulations of NFL games and specific in-game scenarios. This technology has been instrumental in developing injury prevention training and recovery regimens.

A slew of ambitious AI startups have also entered the sports analytics scene. One standout player is AlphaPlay, which offers wallet-friendly AI solutions for cash-strapped teams. Dreamed up by Alice Wang and Brian Hall, AlphaPlay has proven its chops in tricky team sports like hockey and soccer. The platform serves up actionable insights in plain English, giving coaches the lowdown to make smart calls in a snap.

Another heavy hitter is Copenhagen-based AI upstart, Jabbr. They recently took their cutting-edge computer vision AI system, 'DeepStrike', for a spin during the highly anticipated heavyweight title bout between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk. DeepStrike broke down the fight in real-time, feeding broadcasters juicy tidbits on punch count, accuracy, and fight flow. This not only amped up the viewing experience but also provided post-fight analysis that lined up with the judges' call.

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The Future of AI in Sports

AI’s impact on sports is multifaceted. As AI technologies evolve, their applications will become even more sophisticated and integrated into all aspects of sports. Predictive modelling, for instance, will become more accurate, providing teams with even better tools for strategy and planning.

AI will also likely play a pivotal role in injury prevention and recovery. Advanced biometrics and machine learning algorithms will predict injuries before they happen, allowing for preventive measures to be implemented.

In game analytics, AI systems will be able to analyse every aspect of a match, from player movements to ball trajectories. For example, ball-tracking systems will assist judges in making accurate decisions, while AI algorithms will aid in predicting game outcomes by examining historical data and real-time conditions.

Training and coaching will also see a significant shift. AI tools will help coaches devise better strategies by analysing opponents’ weaknesses and predicting game scenarios. These tools will be able to simulate countless game situations, allowing teams to prepare for virtually any eventuality.

The Rise of AI-Driven Fan Engagement

AI is not just transforming the playing field; it’s also enhancing the fan experience. By analysing fan behaviour and preferences, AI can personalise content and promotions, making interactions more engaging. In this regard, virtual assistants and chatbots are also becoming commonplace, offering fans a more interactive and tailored experience.

What's more, immersive technologies powered by AI, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), are already creating new ways for fans to experience games. These technologies can offer unique perspectives, such as AR overlays during live broadcasts, providing fans with detailed stats and insights in real-time.

Image from Gizmodo


Artificial intelligence is undeniably transforming the sports industry, offering unprecedented opportunities for innovation and improvement. 

From enhancing athlete performance and safety to revolutionising fan engagement, AI is set to redefine the game in more ways than one. Yet, as more sports fans and clubs begin to embrace these technological advancements, it's crucial to maintain a balanced perspective. AI should complement, not replace, the human elements that make sports compelling. 

Looking ahead, the challenge lies in finding the right balance - using AI as a powerful tool to enhance decision-making, improve player welfare, and enrich fan experiences, all while keeping the human touch that makes sports truly special.

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