How AI is Transforming Sports

Figure 1: Every aspect of the sports experience is now integrated with AI

There was a time when sports was just a competition between two athletes or teams to determine who was the best. Those who were not athletically gifted or even just into sports could quite easily ignore sports altogether and leave football, basketball, hockey, baseball, and the rest to everyone else.

But the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has crossed all kinds of boundaries and is now a major part of sports as well. In fact, it could be argued that AI is not only changing or transforming sports – it is revolutionizing the way it is played and enjoyed. Whether you are an internationally renowned athlete or just someone who enjoys placing Vegas bets online, AI is now a major player too.

With the worlds of sports and technology now blurred, there are people from both environments finding themselves knowing more about the other. It is an interesting time to be watching sports and there seems to be no way back to the simpler days. Technology and AI are here to stay.

Data Processing

Across all sectors, one of the most important benefits of AI is that it is able to process an incredible amount of data quickly. This lends itself to all kinds of tasks within the sports world, allowing athletes, fans, and those in charge of the leagues, to concentrate on other parts of their job.

Although there has been a backlash surrounding the introduction of AI in many industries and business areas, its involvement in sports has tended to be more welcomed. At its core, the best use of AI should be making life easier for humans and removing repetitive and mind-numbing jobs. That is why it has been able to revolutionize areas of the sports experience.

Sports Analytics

There may well be plenty of traditionalists bemoaning the fact that technology is such a part of the modern-day sports experience. But there is also no doubt that sports teams and leagues have benefitted greatly from its use in tracking player performance. It is not uncommon to see athletes wearing clothes that incorporate tech to measure activity during games these days.

Coaches are then able to take the data collected and produce more targeted, individual training regimes for the athletes. They can work on what they need, with the hope of improving their final performance on the field or court. The data collected can also help with preventing and pre-empting injuries.

Player Recruitment

It is not just when a sports team plays its games that it can benefit from AI though. Recruiting players to the roster is much more effective too – and the huge pool of potential athletes can be narrowed down to those that can be statistically proven to show potential for the team.

Those in charge of recruiting can use AI to analyze massive amounts of data that can identify strengths and weaknesses that the head coaches might not have previously been able to spot. All kinds of factors can be used to make recruitment a much more technically based decision, rather than the old-fashioned method of just knowing if a player was right for the team or not.

Fan Engagement

So, we can see that AI is invaluable for coaches, teams, and players. But it is also useful for improving the fans’ experience – and also for greater engagement between team and fan. AI-powered social media algorithms can be used to enhance the connection among all relevant parties.

Even the game day experience can be enhanced with machine learning programs helping with crowd management. A visit to the ballpark can be made better by AI helping to ensure that the flow of spectators in and around the stadium is at an optimum level at all times. This helps with the security of everyone and can even make the chore of lining up for food and drink a faster and more pleasurable experience.

Challenges for AI in Sports

It would be remiss of us to claim that there are no issues or challenges facing the integration of AI into the sports arena. This is the case with artificial intelligence in every sector – and is something that those in the tech world need to address. There is already a negative backlash to AI in many spheres and those involved need to make sure that a positive message – and experience – is the default setting.

The further introduction of AI into sports has to take things like data security, accuracy, and potential bias in the algorithms into account. Although it can be very tempting for tech to become a greater force in sports – and elsewhere – there has to be ethical thinking behind the innovations to make sure that AI is working for everyone and not just those in charge.

Figure 2: The huge amounts of data in sports can be analyzed far more quickly

The Future of AI and Sports

The relationship between AI and sports is only in its infancy. But it has already improved so many areas for players, teams, and fans. The possibilities do seem endless at this point and the greater the advancements in technology, the more AI will become an integral part of the sports world.

Predicting just how AI will play a role in sports in the future is probably a waste of time, as there will be developments that we cannot even conceive of yet. What is obvious is that sports will become more data-driven and precise. Hopefully, there will always be the unknowable quantity that has brought generations of fans to their favorite sports. But AI, if used ethically and responsibly, will undoubtedly continue to revolutionize just about every aspect of sports.