Artificial intelligence (AI) is sure to make an all-star type impact on the sports industry in the years to come. AI has the ability to leverage the latest technologies to analyse countless data points to infer meaning. It has already been used in multiple industries and promises to have an impact both on and off the field.
AI has already made an impact in the online gaming. In live casinos, AI is used to help players make decisions on their hand through a console on their computer screen. The live dealer can see these decisions and communicate with the player in real time, mainly through live chat. The AI allows the player to play as if they are in the room with the dealer.
AI is often thought of as robots, but AI computers have the ability to refine millions of data sources. It means that there is more to AI than robotic coaches and players. Instead AI will impact sports mostly by being able to give us a clear picture of the variables so that coaches, players and fans can make the best decisions possible. This will no doubt be the difference between winning and losing.
So how is AI currently impacting sports, and how will it impact sports in the future. Here are just some of the areas where you can expect to see AI in the sports industry.
Scouting and recruitment
Scouting and recruitment relies on watching prospective talents and assessing whether they will be a good fit for a team. You can imagine how many different variables go into a decision making process like that.
Traditionally, scouts were old men in sports jackets with a notepad, sitting in the stands, watching a player from another team. While these types of scouts are still important, a new branch of scouting is emerging thanks to AI.
For the most part, what a scout is looking for are examples of what a player can do and how they respond in certain situations on the field. In some instances, scouts will try to understand what a players influence and attitude is like off the field as well.
In the modern digital age, almost all of these variables are able to be captured as data sets. You can see how many times a player passed, in what positions the player was most effective, what they did under pressure. Once these lists of data sets are compiled, the person in charge of recruitment can make an informed decision.
The problem with the traditional scouting method is that a scout can’t be in two places at once, and they can compare hundreds of players at once. AI can. AI has the ability to take thousands of data sets and give a clear report on who has the best performance data. A recruitment officer doesn’t need to only look at a handful of candidates, but could instead look at thousands.
Games like Football Manager, with its massive data set of players, has been used by real clubs in their scouting reports. The data that the games provide can be used to find contract information and statistics from players across the globe. There is no doubt that AI will become a scout’s best friend in finding the best recruits for a team.
Similarly to scouting, AI can be used to understand who is performing well and who isn’t. In the future, it won’t be a case of ‘the coach doesn’t like me’ because the stats will be there for all to see.
A recent example of this was in a English Premier League game between Everton and Manchester United. An Everton player, Moise Kean was brought on and subbed off again after 19 minutes. The decision split fans, who on the one side thought he deserved it for lack of effort, and on the other side thought he was dealt with harshly. Looking at the data from the game, it shows that during the time that Kean was on the field, he had the most sprints and high speed runs of any player from both teams. Clearly this shows that he didn’t lack effort.
As AI develops it will be able to ‘watch’ a game and track certain players movements and contributions. This will help coaches and managers to have accurate performance analysis to help them make the right decisions. It will also help players to refine their games by knowing areas that they can improve on. AI could become a coach and players best friend.
One of the most frustrating things in sports is when a player can’t play due to injury. Titles have been won and lost thanks to key injuries to star players. AI has already been used in the medical industry to help diagnose the extent of injuries. The impact this will have on sporting injuries is immense.
Firstly, a player will be properly diagnosed. AI will look at movements and scans to determine how the players body has deviated due to the injury. It will be able to diagnose the type of injury and its severity.
Secondly, it will help the staff to know what the best treatment for the injury will be. This will help the players recuperation period and ensure the player can be back to their best in as short a time as possible.
Scouting, performance analysis and injury diagnosis are only three areas that AI will impact sports. As the technology develops, so too will the impact on sports.