How is AI Powering the Future of Sports?
We will probably never stop chanting Michael Jordan, nor will this world forget the evergreen Ronaldo vs Messi debate. But hello, fans! We can not imagine a sports industry without artificial intelligence, especially today!
We’ve got a league of examples to admit that.
FIFA announced Goal-Line Technology (GLT) in FIFA World Cup 2012 Japan to assist referees in determining the goal. Tour De France teamed up with NTT (formerly Data Dimension) to incorporate machine learning, which enabled them to predict various events in cycling. Oh! and how could the NBA not use technology at best? They were the first to launch a Facebook chatbot right when fans were waiting for the first game of the NBA Finals.
These are just a fraction of use cases where sports artificial intelligence is prepping the world for a revolution. In this blog, we will explore innovative applications of how artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the sports industry and improving the experience for die-hard fans.
So sit back and let the game begin!
Table of contents
How is AI Used in Sports?
AI and sports have joined hands to amp up the gaming experience both on and off the field! While smart wearables and fitness apps are accelerating real-time tracking of players’ health and schedules, the integration of chatbots in social media is fueling fan engagement. Moreover, computer vision and big data are powering predictions about the performance of a team and even players individually.
Sports artificial intelligence is becoming a powerhouse of efficiency, decision-making, player performance, and even – sports journalism. Functions like tracking, predictive analysis, and computer vision assist coaches in determining the right preparation plan for a player. On the other hand, media houses are leveraging AI in sports to enhance coverage capabilities and, ultimately, increase revenue.
These techniques are even contributing to the prevention of injuries by using AI to detect strain in specific areas of a player’s body. Apart from performance, AI in sports is garnering fan engagement like never before. With chatbots and AR/VR in the frame, it has become seamless for fans to do all things sports-y without having to be in a stadium or compromising on a stadium-like experience!
Importance of AI in Sports
Fans wait in a queue; sportspersons get injured; all eyes are on the updates, and a lot of other things cook in sports! Well, not anymore – not at least like the way it used to be. Following are the areas of sports artificial intelligence that has been quick to yield the benefits of emerging technology trends.
AI in sports can be used to identify patterns and trends with the help of data analysis. The information gathered from data sports coaches and officials to determine the whereabouts of every place on the scale of fitness and performance. This results in strategic decision-making and improved preparation.
Training and Development
Technologies like smart wearables, computer vision, and VR have revolutionized the training practices for sports teams. With real-time monitoring and identification capabilities, coaches are leveraging these technologies to evaluate the fitness of each player and determine training plans based on that. Moreover, many teams are using AI in sports to analyze performance with VR. The National Football League, for example, analyzes game films using this technology, which assists them in improving player performance.
Chatbots are here to stay! Touching almost every industry, it could definitely not leave sports be. And fans are glad it didn’t. Sports teams are introducing chatbots to enhance engagement with fans. Now, a fan can quickly book tickets, ask questions, get live updates, and buy merchandise via chatbots. AR/VR, on the other side of the streaming, are enabling immersive experiences for fans, bringing the field to them instead of having them cut through the stadium rush. Moreover, personalized recommendations and instant match highlights after the game are also exemplifying the role of AI in sports fandom.
AI Frameworks for Sports
AI in sports has multitudinous facets. What appears as a revolutionary technology on the surface is but a porter of many smart technologies. From onboarding new players to performance tracking – AI and sports are ingested by multiple frameworks that accelerate industry practices in many areas.
AI algorithms process data from smart wearables, such as fitness tracker apps and smartwatches, in order to monitor a player’s movements, biomechanics, and muscle strain. Data analysis in real-time help detect the risk of injury and also offers suggestions to prevent it.
Recruiting and Scouting
AI uses different types of data, including performance statistics, video footage, athletes’ profiles, and scouting reports. Analyzing this data helps coaches and scouts to tap key indicators of talent, leading to informed decisions for recruitment.
Video-Based Game Analytics
AI-enabled video analysis tools are increasingly becoming popular due to their capability to automatically tag and categorize game events or actions in the footage. This framework simplifies it for coaches to evaluate players on the basis of key events such as goals, tackles, and other relevant actions.
Applications of AI in Sports
Let’s move on to explore some specific applications of artificial intelligence in sports.
Training and Performance Optimization
The large sets of data on athletes, including heart rate variability, blood markers, oxygen levels, and genetic information, helps scour patterns that can allow coaches to optimize training programs and improve performance. Teams are also leveraging smart wearable technology to track and evaluate each athlete’s health and performance.
Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation
Injuries happen in sports– and so do the loss of time, effort, and money. Teams have started using artificial intelligence sports to keep an eye on players’ health. AI tools help them track fatigue, sleep patterns, diet, and more of deciding factors in a player’s performance. The NFL team Seattle Seahawks has incorporated Microsoft software to strategize during the game and predict and prevent injury. They use and crunch massive data from various sources, based on fitness surveys and trackers, that help coaches determine the effect of practices on each player and enhance game preparation.
Personalized Training Programs
AI in sports has become a powerhouse of training. It uses machine learning for customized meal and exercise plans for each player that aligns exactly with their requirements. One of the straightforward examples of this is fitness apps, where you answer a few questions and it provides you with a detailed plan. The same goes for training programs wherein the technology helps curate exercise plans and routine training by identifying the requirements.
Game Analysis and Strategy
Player Tracking and Movement Analysis
AI and sports come together to deploy computer vision to track human motion. In fact, the global player movement tracking market was US $3,450 million in 2020. If we are to look at its standing in 2026, it is predicted to reach US $13,252.53 million. Computer vision is used to monitor players’ movements and also enables real-time tracking of their bodies during play. The National Hockey League uses a hybrid system with both sensor tracking and optical tracking, which relies on cameras around the rink. This practice involves motion detection, labeling, and color tracking. With computer vision, the coaches gather each player’s spatiotemporal trajectory recorded by the camera, which allows them to gain valuable insights into performance.
Predictive Analytics and Performance Forecasting
Sports artificial intelligence has become the enabler of better health and performance among players, which has a lot to do with predictive analytics. With the advent of wearables, teams can now collect information about muscle tension, determine practices, and maximize the strengths of each player– be it football or swimming.
Real-time Decision-Making Support
AI in sports is also being leveraged for real-time decision-making by coaches. It is now easier than ever to monitor a player’s performance during games and make decisions instantaneously. Coaches can now quickly adjust their strategies as a situation demands in real-time when tracking the opponent’s movements.
Fan Engagement and Experience
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
One of the popular applications of AI in the sports industry has to be virtual and augmented reality experiences. These experiences have become the rage in no time, thanks to the immersive experiences they are offering to fans all over the world. AR and VR not only allow fans to enjoy virtual match experiences but also help them engage with teams. Now, that wasn’t possible before AI! The best example of this is FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar, where the FIFA+ app opened the door for fans to experience match days using different camera angles on their smartphones. All they had to do was direct the camera toward the pitch, and they would be able to see a specific player’s movement. Moreover, they would tap live statistics to gain insights and heat maps. For a football fan, this isn’t far from a blessing.
Personalized Content and Recommendations
Content libraries have become a major determinant of the success of sports streaming platforms, owing to personalization. After all, some fans want to see highlights, whereas others will do with an overview of a game. One of the finest duos representing AI and sports in content is IBM’s Watson and Wimbledon– and they are catering to fans like never before! With Watson, Wimbledon is able to curate the highlights instantly after a match. AI helps them analyze elements, such as a player’s reaction, crowd cheers, etc. This type of data accelerates content generation and cooks the best highlights in no time.
Social Media and Community Building
Communication on social media is becoming crucial to building relationships with fans. Thanks to AI-enabled chatbots, sports teams are engaging with fans on a closer level, bringing zest about the games into the air. Sports teams are magnifying their online presence by curating relevant content for social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit. These platforms are now the station for fans to check up on livestream highlights post-match and other important events.
Examples of AI in Sports
In this section, we discuss how AI is changing the scenario of sports.
Wearable Technology and Sensor Data Analysis
Smart Clothing and Equipment
Wearable technology is no longer an amusement in sports. It came and made everyone adapt to it in no time. With wearables powered by artificial intelligence, sports teams can collect information on a player’s fitness level and determine if they have any tension or fatigue lingering in any part of the body. This helps the team plan the gameplay accordingly, reconsider their tactics and maximize the performance.
Biometric Monitoring and Analysis
Newer and smarter wearables also allow biometric monitoring and analysis. They enable you to track all the vitals and can also report the same to a database where all this data is stored for later analysis requirements.
Computer Vision and Image Recognition
Player Tracking and Motion Capture
Monitoring player performance has become plain sailing with the implementation of AI in sports. Coaches can use visuals and data to fetch insights into the performance levels of players. This helps them plan practices for each player accordingly, determining their strengths and weaknesses.
Game Analysis and Strategy
Computer vision and its robust capabilities enable coaches to sense player movements using video sequences. This results in posing changes in strategies if and when required, considering the opponent’s movements, too.
Natural Language Processing and Chatbots
Fan Engagement and Customer Service
The industry is shifting toward AI-enabled chatbots for stimulated interaction. Fans can now talk with the chatbot to get the answer to their query related to a sport or a player. This enables good communication between sports clubs and fans. Moreover, it simplifies the process of booking tickets, merchandise sales, and other practices, which saves time. Manchester United, for example, uses a chatbot that shares live match updates, statistics of a team or a player, and sorts of relevant information with their fans.
Player and Team Communication and Analysis
NLP technologies are also often used to analyze conversations flowing between the players and other non-playing team members. This is vital to ensure that the entire team is on the page and aligns with the game plan.
Impact of AI on the Sports Industry
Improved Player and Team Performance
With the help of AI algorithms, coaches and players can analyze vast amounts of data about games, opponents, and their own performances. This data can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses, develop strategies, and make informed decisions in real-time. AI can also help with injury prevention by tracking player movements and analyzing biomechanical data to identify any movements that could lead to injury.
Increased Fan Engagement and Revenue
AI-enabled chatbots allow sports fanatics to experience games in the most exciting way. These chatbots provide live game updates, answer fans’ questions, and offer personalized recommendations based on their preferences. AI can determine the suitable content to suggest throughout and after a game, alongside instant highlights. To top it all, both in-stadium game experiences with VR/AR are also encouraging sports enthusiasm among fans.
Enhanced Safety and Injury Prevention
AI in the sports industry has become a technique to prevent injuries too. Its diagnostic and predictive prowess can give a hand in health and fitness assessments in sports. Teams and coaches are leveraging AI in sports to analyze player movement and check certain health parameters to detect signs of fatigue, stress, or any potential injuries in a player’s body. This allows them to take proactive measures to strategize games and maintain a specific regime to promote health and safety.
Improved Decision-Making and Strategy
As AI technologies cater to almost every aspect of the sport, from analyzing performance to recommending the best strategies, they significantly improve the quality and accuracy of decisions. Moreover, automated and data-driven decision-making also saves a lot of time that can be used somewhere important.
Challenges and Ethical Considerations
AI in sports is unleashing the potential of players, teams, and fan engagement to an unimaginable extent. However, its prowess has not arrived without challenges and a few thoughts that humans must put into practice. The very direction where AI is benefiting sports carries concerns surrounding data and ethics that cannot go unnoticed.
Data Privacy and Security
The reason why AI in sports is able to leverage deep and machine learning models is data. This data comes from a large number of sources from around the world, which leaves a hunch for its leakage and misuse. For example, a sports streaming services provider offers personalized services to millions of fans out there, and one day, cyberattack results in victimizing their personal data. The worst side to this concern is that the data is available in a massive amount or, let’s just say, in a quantity that is beyond the world.
Fairness and Bias
The way sports commentary talks about athletes of different races brings the AI bias factor into the spotlight. Fairness in sports cannot be determined by objective standards. Commentators have been blunt with bias, which has impacted the fairness scale in sports brutally. While it may sound like an age-old tale, the bias is still prevalent. Machines can do the human job but are still very much reliant on humans to enter data. AI systems may encourage existing biases in training if the data fails to represent diversity in athletes.
Responsibility and Accountability
AI in sports is good as long as there’s accountability for its actions. Coaches and experts cannot rely fully on assessments led by artificial intelligence, or this might lead to a decline in human thinking in determining an athlete’s potential. Moreover, not every athlete will be welcoming to AI-enabled coaching approaches. Therefore, coaches will still need to provide more personalized feedback.
Regulations and Governance
Regulations and governance in sports artificial intelligence are a concern to watch out for. AI governance encompasses several issues, such as fairness, accountability, and transparency in the use of AI in the sports industry. However, AI governance has its own clan of challenges to address, with the primary one being the lack of understanding of AI among organizations. Moreover, governance in AI in sports will work best when applied from the development of algorithms to their deployment. It also requires frameworks incorporating explainability elements actually to reap fair outcomes.
Future of AI in Sports
Sports nurture team building, bring a pool of entertainment, and of course, business. Now that AI in sports has become a prized possession, all eyes are on its future. The global artificial intelligence market is forecast to rocket to US $19.2 billion by 2030. And there’s an abundance of potential that gives us a hunch of its breakthrough in the future.
AI and sports have brought us to an era where robots are covering gameplays and redefining media presence. The use of AI is helping media houses cover stories without necessarily walking to the location with their cameras on. Content distribution will skyrocket to increase fan engagement by implementing AI to convey every bit of ongoing minutes on the field to fans.
The data-driven distribution of information is set to enable the player and the entire team to anticipate the opponent’s move, enhancing strategy building. AR and VR are zooming into a remarkable boom. The global VR market in sports and entertainment is predicted to reach US $56.7 billion by 2031. Sports channels like ESPN to sports teams in the NFL and NBA are all deep-diving into the potential of AR/VR to enhance fan engagement and set a robust example of artificial intelligence sports.
With AI setting trends in different industries, it’d be interesting to see how it advances sports in the future. We are accustomed to wearables, instant match highlights, chatbots, and whatnot, and perhaps, are ready to witness its potential to introduce more developments in sports.
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Frequently Asked Questions
A. Artificial intelligence collects and analyzes massive amounts of data, which automates and accelerates various areas in sports, including player selection, custom performance improvement plans, injury prediction, match updates, and match coverage.
A. Sports teams in basketball, baseball, football, and cricket are getting their hands on the leverage of AI to enhance match performance and fan engagement.
A. AI uses machine learning to crunch large amounts of data and identify patterns. This allows coaches to predict various events, including performance, players’ and opponents’ movements, and who could possibly win the match.