If you tried to answer our “Do you know enough” quiz about the growing presence of artificial intelligence in the field of sport, you have already had a glimpse of what it could become in the years to come. We could become witnesses to extraordinary changes at different scales, which would completely disrupt the sports scene. Additionally, sport entertains a considerable part of the world’s population and is widely spread across the globe, which would lead to AI having a significant impact on millions of people. Whether it is football, tennis, basketball, skiing, martial arts, F1 or horse riding, everyone finds themselves in at least one sport. In this article, we’re going to look at a few of the changes that may appear in the years to come, along with their potential consequences.

Wearable AI Technology

Nowadays, being a running enthusiast means directly connected watch, or, at least, application to record and visualise your sports performances on your phone. What if this evolves? Many companies are considering implanting different kind of sensors in tennis racquets, in footballers’ shin guards and professional skis. What would be the goal? Quite simply to scientifically analyse each movement, each choice and each reflex followed by the athlete during his performance. This would undoubtedly lead to a quicker and more efficient progress, either for the coach, or the player himself. They would, indeed, be able to understand their mistakes, but also their choices which allowed them to succeed. Football players who demonstrated creativity and quickness, for example, could be placed on offence rather than defence.

Improved arbitration 

We see it regularly in football matches, when the referee walks over to a screen to replay a scene too fast for the human eye: technology is already part of the sporting world. While the human referee always has the final say in a football match, this is not the case in tennis. The video making it possible to know precisely where the ball has fallen, a system also called literally “Hawk-eye”, will decide the fate of the tennis player instead of the referees. Therefore, it is evident that viewers already trust artificial intelligence when it comes to making an unbiased decision. So, what will happen in the years to come? Indeed, with a simple system of sensors detecting the moving 3D position of each player, a machine could not be mistaken about a yellow card or a martial arts rule breaker. Many people argue that nothing can replace a referee, which can adapt to different situations in different contexts. But wouldn’t it be
possible for a computer to learn to adapt, too?

“This raises some

ethical questions:

 

Wouldn’t it be

enough for recruits

to buy the best

gadgets possible

to win a competition?

Will the sport become

boring and timeless,

since it will be

scientifically perfect?”

Fans’ Experience

First of all, in with the current pandemic making us stay at home, we have had time to enjoy the broadcasts of matches which we unfortunately cannot attend. However, it is not something new to us – the most decisive moments of the 2018 World Cup, we lived it together in front of a television, as well as the final of Rolland Garros or the recent fight between Mike

Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. Still, with artificial intelligence, all of these experiences could be significantly enriched – the cameras will automatically select the most outstanding performances. The Olympic Games will be organised so that everyone can see what they want when they want. Subtitles in different languages carrying the words of a famous commentator would make life easier for millions of people. Besides, certain advertisements will appear on certain fans’ screens at different times to maximise financial profits. This video shows us different problems that people face when, for instance, they are filming a game, and how AI could help us overcome these challenges.

On the other hand, experience in stadiums and other sporting venues could also change dramatically. Companies have already thought of robots bringing food and drink to stressed fans or individual screens that allow everyone to be a sort of judge. Not all of these ideas are in place yet, but we can expect many more to emerge.

 

Last Words and Moral Questions 

Thus, it is difficult to imagine a sporting world in which all technology is prohibited. We must be prepared to adapt to inevitable changes, more or less critical. Of course, this raises some ethical questions – mainly, are we going to lose any kind of human sense? If sports performances depend more and more on specific digital tools, what does this mean for athletes? Wouldn’t it be enough for recruiters to buy the best gadgets possible to win a competition? Will the sport become boring and aimless, since it will be scientifically perfect? What entertains people? Is it ultimately the performance itself or the excitement experienced by the fans? What do we do about the intuitiveness and creativity of athletes, who do not always need to think logically to achieve exceptional performance Therefore, even though technological advances in sports are exciting and intriguing, it is always essential to think about the consequences that they could have.

If this article interested you, I urge you to take a quick look at ‘Moneyball’, with Brad Pitt, released in 2011. This movie made the concept of using data science in sports globally understood!

 

Written by Hélène Pignon

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