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AI AND SPORTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

By: Andrew Petcash for Profluence Sports June 20, 2023


Have you ever gone on YouTube to watch a video and emerged 3 hours later because you went down a rabbit hole?


Well, that’s the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI)…


YouTube uses machine learning algorithms to analyze user preferences/behavior to know what to recommend next.


And while AI can help recommend videos — it can also help you create them, analyze them, and much more.


As I’m sure you can imagine, artificial intelligence is going to have a major impact on sports.


It’s worth a deep dive 👇


SETTING THE STAGE

Before going too deep, I think it’s wise to lay the groundwork with some definitions and a basic understanding of the underlying technologies.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) – the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior

Generative AI – a branch of AI capable of generating new and original content, such as images, videos, music, or text

Machine Learning (ML) – development of algorithms that can access data, analyze patterns, and make predictions or take actions based on the analysis, allowing computers to learn and adapt w/o explicit instructions

Large Language Model (LLM) – AI systems that learn from massive amounts of text data and can produce meaningful responses, answer questions, and have natural conversations with people, ex. ChatGPT

Computer Vision – a field of AI that enables computers to analyze, interpret, and understand visual data to perform tasks like object detection, image recognition, and facial recognition


There is a lot more to learn to truly grasp this field, but in simple terms…


AI helps computers act smart and do things that typically require human intelligence.

Such as:

  • analyze data

  • perform tasks

  • solve problems

  • make decisions

  • recognize patterns

  • learn from experiences

  • understand information

You can see why these are so powerful…


9 WAYS AI WILL INFLUENCE SPORTS

Artificial Intelligence is set to revolutionize the sports industry in every imaginable way.

I think it’s best to bucket them into 3 categories: Athlete, Fan, and Management/Coaching


ATHLETE

As I’m sure you can imagine, AI is going to have a massive impact on…


1. Athlete Training and Performance Enhancement.

AI models can analyze biomechanical data, track movements, and suggest optimal techniques to enhance performance.


A handful of companies are already doing this, which you’ll see later.


2. Skill Enhancement + Virtual Practice.

I find this one really cool.


By analyzing vast amounts of sports data, AI models can generate simulations and scenarios that mimic real-game situations, allowing athletes to practice and improve their skills in a controlled environment.


Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies are now being integrated with AI to create even more immersive training environments.


3. Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation

This one has the most potential in my opinion, as injuries cost players and teams millions of dollars every year.


So how does it work?


By analyzing player movements, training loads, and medical data, AI algorithms can identify potential injury risks and provide insights on optimizing training techniques.



Post-injury, AI can assist in developing personalized rehabilitation programs for injured athletes, monitoring progress, and adjusting treatment plans.


FAN

Sports fans are going to benefit drastically from AI innovations, starting with…


4. Personalized Experiences and Fan Engagement.

AI systems will analyze fan preferences, behavior, and social media interactions to deliver tailored content.

This could include match recommendations, customized highlight reels, or interactive fan experiences.


5. Real-time Insights and Broadcasting Enhancements.

We all love the bells-and-whistles when watching sports…

Such as how hard a baseball is thrown or if the tennis ball hit the line.


These technologies are going to get even better…


AI algorithms can process data including player movements, statistics, and historical patterns, to generate visualizations, statistics, and predictive models.


Even cooler…

Generative AI can enhance the broadcasting experience by generating real-time visualizations, augmented reality (AR) overlays, and interactive graphics that provide viewers with additional insights during live sports events.


6. Virtual Athletes and Realistic Game Simulations.

Venture Capital firm a16z believes “games” will be the most impacted by Generative AI advancements.


Here’s where it gets cool…


Generative AI can be utilized to create virtual athletes with realistic movements, enabling the development of highly immersive sports video games.

These virtual athletes can exhibit lifelike behavior and provide a more engaging gaming experience for users.


MANAGEMENT/COACHING

One of the most exciting innovations AI has already brought to sports is…


7. Advanced Analytics and Decision Making.

AI can analyze vast amounts of sports data, including player statistics, game footage, and sensor data, to extract meaningful insights.


By identifying patterns and trends, AI models can assist with in-game strategy development, opponent analysis, player selection, and game tactics.


A football offensive coordinator may look a whole lot different in 10 years.


8. Sports Design and Optimization.

Generative AI can aid in the design and optimization of sports equipment, such as racquets, balls, and shoes.


By simulating and analyzing different design variations, AI models can help improve the performance, durability, and safety aspects of sports equipment.


On top of that…

AI-powered video analysis systems can assist referees and officials in making accurate decisions, reducing human error, and enhancing the integrity of sports competitions.


9. Sports Venue Optimization and Operations.

Several companies are being built in this niche…

As AI can optimize sports venue operations by analyzing data on ticket sales, crowd management, and facility usage.



AI-powered systems can predict attendance patterns, optimize seating arrangements, and enhance security measures.


Now let’s take a look at some of the main companies:


AI SPORTS LANDSCAPE

A handful of sports companies have been using AI for years — but it’s only become popularized this past year.


This has caused a major problem…

Many companies now label themselves as “AI-powered”, which is often not the full truth.

Here’s a chart of what I believe are the “true” AI sports companies:


(To Note: no fitness companies are included, and I’m sure companies are missing so feel free to email me)


DATA = GOLD IN SPORTS

Anyone with loads of unique data sits in a great position.

For example, let’s say you had access/ownership of all the college basketball data in the United States.


You could insource or outsource an LLM which then drastically improves your product.


A user could now search for something like “provide me with 10 players with similar stats and size to Jayson Tatum when he was at Duke”. Boom.


And this applies everywhere unique data lies…

Another example: “Based on our offensive scheme and NIL budget, what running back in the transfer portal best suits our needs?” Boom.


In a past article, I wrote about how “Data is the New Oil” — I think this furthers the argument.


AI AND SPORTS TAKEAWAYS

AI is not something new, it’s just more popular than ever before.

And interestingly…


Sports are behind the innovation curve in most technological niches, however, that’s not the case with AI.


Cameras, video analysis, wearables, ticketing, training devices, and many other areas of sports have been influenced by AI for many years now.


With that said…


I think the recent widespread adoption of artificial intelligence will further accelerate innovation in and around sports.


Exciting times are ahead!


This article originally appeared HERE on Profluence.com

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