Japanese professional football league " J.LEAGUE" match （©J.LEAGUE）
A variety of cutting-edge technologies are used in the field of sports. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used to allow us to think about strategies and we are getting to understand moves that previously, even in slow motion, we were not able to understand due to the fact that the players move too fast. This type of technology is not only helpful for individual players and teams to improve their techniques, but can also be used to assign scores fairly to difficult skills that the human eye alone cannot judge. These days corporations, universities and sporting organizations work together to develop technologies from day to day.
AI is used to predict football matches
A Japanese company, which is launching an offensive on new businesses and technologies, has developed the world's first technology to predict the progress of football matches using AI. The technology enters all sorts of data on the kind of movements made by a team and its individual players in football games played to date and uses this to make predictions. The company uses this technology to reproduce and predict actual J-League (Japan's professional football league) matches.
The football pitch is displayed on the screen of a PC or smartphone, with the players represented by round, color-coded symbols to show the two sides. As each player continues to move, you can see how the ball passes to and fro between them. The name of the players and the way they are facing are also shown and, rather than actually watching the game, this allows you to get a better understanding of where the player with the ball is going to pass and also the type of moves made by a player wanting the pass. Using this technology, football fans can gain a better understanding of what the players are thinking and enjoy the match more than ever.
"WARP" - an analytical video of a football match using AI (courtesy of: Sports AI)
Used to judge gymnastic techniques
Gymnastic techniques are developing day by day. You cannot distinguish the different twists and rotations done at high speed just by looking at TV video images. The same is true for the referees at the sports arenas. With a momentary look, we cannot tell whether the gymnast has added a half-twist or whether the angle of the body's twist is correct. There are even some things that are hard to distinguish using a recorded playback. Given this, a well-known Japanese electric appliance manufacturer has been working on developing a system that uses technology with special light rays called lasers (3D laser sensors) to analyze body movements, replace them with numbers and then convert this to data.
Previously work has been done that analyzes the type of movements taking place by attaching special instruments to various parts of the gymnast's body. However, you cannot attach implements to a gymnast during a competition. Therefore, the company has developed a technology that blasts laser rays at millions of spots per second on gymnasts as they perform their routines. The greater the number of laser rays, the more accurate a 3D image of the gymnast's movement you can see. The data obtained by applying the laser rays is immediately reproduced using computer graphics (CG) and using this material to judge the performance along with the decision of the referee at the time of the competition will give a more accurate score. This technology is nearly complete and work is being verified to check whether it can actually be used in competitions. The company’s objective is to put it to practical use during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Gymnast Kenzo Shirai who is expected to play an active part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (Getty)
3D Laser Sensor Technology developed by FUJITSU
Things are being accelerated for the Rugby World Cup
In collaboration with a renowned private university in Japan, another leading Japanese electronics manufacturer has developed an AI that automatically analyzes rugby play. In rugby there are often plays like feints where players try to confuse the opposition while huddled together and scrabbling for the ball in scrums, mauls and rucks. Consequently, on video images it has been hard to grasp the location of the ball and has taken time to input data, making it difficult to analyze rugby games quickly. The amount of time needed to input data has been significantly reduced by using AI to determine the type of play given the pattern of previous movements in rugby and the movements in the actual game. Managers and coaches can analyses play during the game to think up the next strategy.
With the Rugby World Cup being held in Japan in 2019, the objective is to introduce the technology to the Japanese national team.
Moving forward, we will no doubt continue to create various technologies to promote and support sports.
Japan's national team playing New Zealand's national team at rugby (Getty)
Rugby analysis demo screen (courtesy of: Toshiba Digital Solutions)