The sports world is an industry that generates billions of dollars in revenue every year. From gate revenues, merchandising, sponsorships, to media rights, the money is everywhere. With AI becoming more popular and common in today’s world, it isn’t surprising that it is being used to transform the sports world. There are countless types of areas in which AI has appeared. I am only going to talk about only three of them because I don’t want to write novel post. Anyways, here we go…
Sports teams use chatbots (virtual assistants) to interact with fans and answer any questions that they may have regarding the team. In 2016, the Sacramento Kings (a NBA team), in partner with Saipen, developed a chatbot known as KAI (Kings Artificial Intelligence). The chatbot is located on Facebook Messenger, and was developed to answer any question somebody had regarding the organization. Here is an example of a conversation that a Kings fan had with KAI.
In a 2016 Connected Sports Fans report from Avaya, a communications firm, “stadium owners and teams that provide more personalized digital experiences through stadium apps, digital offers direct to mobile phones, and game information on digital boards can increase fan engagement and generate new revenue opportunities.” I think that this is a very useful tool for sports teams to utilize. Implementing chatbot allows for fans to engage more with the team, resulting in a higher level of satisfaction. I believe that chatbots raise the level of fan loyalty because the more a fan is engaging with the chatbot, the more time he is spending thinking about his or her team. This is also a great for business because these devoted fans are more likely to spend money on their favorite teams.
- Computer Vision (specifically relating to racing)
Researchers are training learning networks to be able to identify each specific car at high speeds that normally reduce the clarity of the images. NASCAR is the most dangerous sport and has been for the past 50 years, with one person dying each season. Safety is the biggest concern for those involved in the sport.
Argo AI/Ford Motor Company developed self-driving cars using deep learning and is now expanding its application of deep learning to help improve safety measures in the sport.
The design team recognized that the network that it developed was capable of identifying specific cars using images. As the network gained proficiency, it reportedly provided more accurate results than humans in its ability to identify specific race cars. This is extremely important because the network is able to quickly identify a car that is experiencing malfunctions during a race. Drivers are then able to slow down their vehicle and go to the pit stop to get the car repaired, making the sport significantly more safe. To be completely honest I don’t really care for NASCAR that much. The only knowledge I have of the sport is based on Will Ferrell’s hit classic Talladega NIghts, The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, in which I really only learned that he wanted to go fast. However, in the real world the only really time I see NASCAR is from a highlight and that highlight is usually of a freak accident or collision. I think that if NASCAR can develope this AI more it will make the sport drastically more safe.
- Automated Journalism
AI is changing the profession of sports journalism through automation. The Associated Press (AP) is working with a startup called Automated Insights to expand the media outlets coverage of games in Minor League Baseball (MiLB). The application that the startup came up with is Wordsmith, an AI-driven platform that translates hard data from MiLB into narratives, using natural language. This partnership resulted in the the AP covering 13 leagues and 142 different MLB-affiliated teams. This results in 3700 stories earning money each quarter, which is a 12 times increase from regular manual stories. Because sports stats are all numbers-based, automated journalism is very adaptable. I think that this concept is very cool. Just plugging in numbers and stats from a baseball game and having AI take that information and craft it into a story/recap is unbelievable. Especially for teams that may not have a large following or do not have a designated reporter, delegating the recaps to the AI will allow the reporters on payroll to focus on the more important, high-profiled games.
Along with these three, there are so many other examples of how AI is used in sports and can be implemented in the future. It will be interested to see how AI is going to be used in the future. What other ways do you think AI can be implemented into the realm of sports?
Riddle of the Week:
You can drop me from the tallest building and I’ll be fine, but if you drop me in water I die. What am I?
See you for the final blog post in a few weeks!