Science 4 min read

Second Spectrum AR Will Change the way we Watch Sports

Melis |

Melis |

Professional sport is almost as old as civilized society, and so it is no surprise that the industry will be worth $73.5 billion USD in the U.S. by 2019, according to Forbes. As people consume more and more electronic media, the sports industry responds by making their content easier to access.

These days, you can watch your favorite team right on your smartphone. Yet, given advances in AR/VR technology, the sports industry should do more to improve the experience of watching spots.  The startup Second Spectrum may be able to do just that, as they’ve developed a system that can record every aspect of a game and display that information via an AR interface. Luckily, the technology is slated to be used by the National Basketball Association starting in 2017.


A Better World for Statisticians

The new AR system uses special optical trackers to analyze all player and basketball movement. By capturing each court object’s exact location 25 times per second, the trackers can create an AR display that gives users comprehensive game data. To be displayed are data about body position, where shots are taken, rebound height, and even foul calls.

Ever since fantasy sports took over fandom, statistics have become as important as team spirit and legacy. With Second Spectrum’s new system, measurable sports information will reach a new level. The data from one-half of play could provide us with literal hours of number-crunching fun. Fans will be intimately aware of how their favorite athletes play the game. Additionally, the athletes themselves will make good use of that same information.

If you’ve ever witnessed your favorite team’s preparation, you know the level of research that goes into each matchup. It isn’t enough to be good, you have to know your opponent: his tendencies, his weaknesses, and his strengths.

Traditionally, this means hours of studying game footage, looking for anything that gives one an edge over the opponent. With the new system, players will have more comprehensive data more quickly. It will tell players useful information that cameras alone cannot provide, such as how fast a certain player passes the ball, or typical pass angles taken. With access to such detailed information, every team will be able to improve their game preparation. Fans are set to see the most competitive basketball games ever.

This new level of data is clearly exciting for both fans and players, as it stands to revolutionize how we experience our favorite games. According to Dr. Horesh Ben Shitrit, who is the Director of Computer Vision products at Second Spectrum, “We provide an in-depth understanding of the games, at a greater level of detail than a coach can perceive alone”.

The technology was developed by PlayfulVision, an EPFL startup that was acquired by Second Spectrum last year. They immediately struck a deal with the NBA, and the system will be used for the next seven years, starting in 2017.

Second Spectrum AR is the Next big Thing in Sportscasting, but What Comes After That?

While optical trackers and AR display are the stars of Second Spectrum’s project, the underlying technology is powered by artificial intelligence. With such an immense amount of data captured from each game, AI is the only platform capable of efficient analysis. A true synthesis of data collection and AI is the dream of Second Spectrum, and this has implications beyond mere sport.

The new system provides healthcare professionals detailed information on how an injury occurred. This could lead to faster diagnosis and more effective treatment, getting players back in the game more quickly than ever. For fantasy sports, this means more accurate injury reports and timelines for player return.

AI is already used for diagnosis and aggregation of medical data. With deep learning, AI analyzes data based on intuitive understanding of doctors’ methods. For example, IBM‘s Watson AI efficiently diagnoses patients and suggests treatment for different types of cancer. It may not be long before everyone has a virtual consultant that can give answers to even the most obscure sports and health related questions.

The next few years will determine whether this technology catches on. In the meantime, sports fans should keep their fingers crossed. If the NBA finds success, the likelihood of the other major sports organizations adopting the technology is high. Fans and players could be more on the same page than ever before.

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William McKinney

William is an English teacher, a card carrying nerd, And he may run for president in 2020. #truefact #voteforedgy

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