Sport is moving into the AI era

brainWouldn’t it be great if we could all afford a coach to measure and monitor our performance in the gym or on the road and provide actionable advice so we can improve? It turns out, we might all, eventually, have access to a virtual coach, powered by Artificial Intelligence, or AI.

We recently mentioned Boltt but it’s not the only game in town.

Vi, an AI enabled hearable, was launched through Kickstarter earlier this year and wearables companies such as Sensoria and Under Armour are moving towards increased use of AI as well.

The thing about AI is that it is very complex. And it’s important to understand that it is artificial. The advice it can offer is only as good as the ability of the programmers to take expert advice and represent it in a computer program.

Olympic silver medalist, Justin Gatlin, worked with renowned biomechanist  Ralph Mann to prepare for the Rio Olympics. Their approach (which was covered in a recent issue of Popular Mechanics) detailed the complexity of the task that faced Gatlin. He needed to shave two one-thousandths of a second off each stride to beat Usain Bolt – something he couldn’t achieve in Rio.

So, what’s the point? It seems that we can use data to improve our performance. And, for most of us who aren’t competing at the elite level, there are some massive gains to be made by looking at data and addressing obvious issues.

I think there’s a strong case for AI to help recreational athletes, perhaps up to the local competitive level. But the quality of the outcomes will depend heavily on the quality of the software. Given the dearth of IT professionals in many fields, it may take a while before we see something really stand out and deliver an AI-based coach that works well.

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