The beneficial contributions that artificial intelligence provides within the sport sector is becoming clearer, however should there be more attention paid to the potential concerns that go along with artificial intelligence (AI)?
A worrying lack of human control over technology is becoming a true focal point for some of the leading minds in technology. For instance, is it possible for machines and technology to outthink the human mind and become a threat? Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used with the stadium and sports sector, which many view as an exciting yet also worrying prospect.
Will human coaches become a thing of the past?
Technology is becoming a vital ingredient in the recipe for sports related success, and artificial intelligence is now being used to enhance player performance in a plethora of ways, from monitoring fitness on the pitch to pin pointing and improving areas of weakness. These analytical features are making sports teams more successful than ever and the further involvement of artificial intelligence is aiming to take the successes even further.
In short, the use of artificial intelligence will now allow sports coaches to stop looking back at why mistakes were made within a previous game, and allow them to plan ahead and prevent them from happening in the next game. Machine learning is the function that allows this to happen – a processing tool that can handle more complex and concurrent computations than the human mind, allowing a sports managerial team to have multiple viewpoints of their players and the competition at any one time.
Unlike the human mind, which can only have one view at any given time, AI can process multiple streams of data, run ‘what-if’ scenarios and computations, and make predictions in real-time based on information from thousands of matches. Game time decision making across all sporting backgrounds is being improved hugely, yet just how far will this idea go? Could human coaching become a rarity in sport all together if this trend continues? Will players be disgruntled with the amount of personal health-related information that is being made available to a vast amount of people?
US missile technology coming to a stadium near you
The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, a professional Japanese baseball team, have adapted a statistical analysis tool called ‘TrackMan’ which has seen them performing more effectively than ever before. Although ‘TrackMan’ is not a new device, the Fukuoaka SoftBank Hawks have pushed its use further than any of their baseball competitors through the use of artificial intelligence. The artificial intelligence system collects a vast amount of data surrounding: player performance, pitch characteristics and the speed of the baseball being hit towards them. It is based on technology developed by the US military to analyse missile trajectory and performance and is now being employed in sports to monitor and fine-tune throws, hits, kicks and movements.
Through collating this historical and real time data, the team can then predict how they will play their game ahead of time in order to be as prepared as possible to face their opposition.
Today: in-app ordering, tomorrow: AI?
The contribution of artificial intelligence does not stop with the quality of the performance the fans get to enjoy, it progresses to influencing the whole stadium experience. Fans of the Minnesota Vikings will soon be receiving a new and improved match day experience due to data analytics and the introduction of artificial intelligence. Fans will be able to monitor the queue times to use facilities at any point as well as having an ‘app’ based ticketing system. The app will allow complete integration between all sectors of the match day experience, even counting the amount of app users compared to the inventory levels of hot dogs to ensure there are enough for the fans.
AI could easily be introduced into this to enable the automated restocking of inventory based on fans’ app behaviour and ordering trends.
Risks of removing the ‘human’ element
However, the concerns of artificial intelligence are still prevalent within the sport and stadium sector. Many have concerns over the consideration that eventually, players will no longer wish for all of their personal and health information to be available to a vast amount of individuals. Alongside this, the most concerning area is the lack of human control from the introduction of these high intelligence systems that are being commonly used and integrated into everything from players’ clothing to ‘smart’ stadium buildings. The eventual demise of human participation in the coaching of sports teams is also a potential and real worry for the sporting industry.
There is no doubt that artificial intelligence is beneficial towards the stadium and sports sector, yet it does not prevent a number of people erring on the side of caution in relation to the frightening potential that technology will take over too many jobs, impact the match day experience and change how the sports industry operates beyond recognition. However, technology has been beneficial within this sector to players, coaches and fans, and there can be no complainants surrounding the quality of the experience visitors now receive with enhanced connectivity becoming the norm in many stadiums.
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