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Why Data and A.I. is at the Intersection of Sports and Science with Intel’s Jonathan Lee

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Today, technology is an integral part of the sports landscape. In fact, it’s become so ingrained in American sports that data and algorithms are part of pretty much every broadcast and in every locker room.  Technology is now used to predict win probability, analyze launch angles of home runs, and track shot charts of NBA superstars. But technology isn’t just used to build a better viewing experience. It is also being dropped into the hands of coaches to do things like perfect a runner’s stride and track every moment from the beginning of a sprint, to the final lunge across the finish line to reveal surprising information.

“We pull out things like velocity acceleration and when they hit their top speed. For example,  when an athlete hits their top speed. We can see something that’s really fascinating. They actually hit a top speed and then they start to decelerate and every athlete does it. Even when you look at Usain bolt, you see his races and he looks like he’s pulling away. And you think that he’s kicking it up to another gear. He’s actually slowing down, just not as much as his competitors, you just can’t see it until you look at the data.”

That’s just one of the fascinating data points that Jonathan Lee, the Director of Sports Performance Technology for the Olympic Technology Group at Intel, has at his fingertips. And on this episode of IT Visionaries, he offered up details about how his department and Intel are working together to enhance 3D tracking technology ahead of the 2021 Olympic games in Tokyo so that the athletes and coaches can also benefit from Intel’s technology. Jonathan explains how Intel is leveraging everyday cameras to track and monitor athlete performance and he also dishes on how this technology is being used to enhance the health and well-being of some of the best athletes on the planet.

Main Takeaways

  • What Kind of Camera is That?: By designing technology around cameras in a way that makes it possible for anyone to use it — from professionals to amateurs — you’re able to increase the adoption of the platform, and increase the scale at which the system can operate. Since Intel designed the technology around smartphones, a coach with a phone or table, can record an athlete doing a particular drill and have instant analysis on the spot. If you only design for high-definition or high frame-rate cameras, those cards then have to be pulled off the cameras and then run through the system.
  • The Future of Sports Medicine: Thanks to A.I. tracking, coaches can more easily hone in on body mechanics or identify trouble spots to bring to an athlete’s attention. From there, the athlete can more effectively train to fix a specific problem or enhance a part of their performance based on data. 
  • So there’s no Sensors?: With a sensorless system, you are able to get more accurate results based on the exact moment an athlete completes a drill or finishes a run. When you use sensors to identify when a particular test has begun or finished, you are reliant on the sensor to identify the exact moment it was crossed. By relying on instant tracking, Intel is able to gather more precise times which have led to higher accuracy with its data sets.

For a more in-depth look at this episode, check out the article below.


Article 

Today, technology is an integral part of the sports landscape. In fact, it’s become so ingrained in American sports that data and algorithms are part of pretty much every broadcast and in every locker room.  Technology is now used to predict win probability, analyze launch angles of home runs, and track shot charts of NBA superstars. But technology isn’t just used to build a better viewing experience. It is also being dropped into the hands of coaches to do things like perfect a runner’s stride and track every moment from the beginning of a sprint, to the final lunge across the finish line to reveal surprising information.

“We pull out things like velocity acceleration and when they hit their top speed. For example,  when an athlete hits their top speed. We can see something that’s really fascinating. They actually hit a top speed and then they start to decelerate and every athlete does it. Even when you look at Usain bolt, you see his races and he looks like he’s pulling away. And you think that he’s kicking it up to another gear. He’s actually slowing down, just not as much as his competitors, you just can’t see it until you look at the data.”

That’s just one of the fascinating data points that Jonathan Lee, the Director of Sports Performance Technology for the Olympic Technology Group at Intel, has at his fingertips. And on this episode of IT Visionaries, he offered up details about how his department and Intel are working together to enhance 3D tracking technology ahead of the 2021 Olympic games in Tokyo so that the athletes and coaches can also benefit from Intel’s technology. Jonathan explains how Intel is leveraging everyday cameras to track and monitor athlete performance and he also dishes on how this technology is being used to enhance the health and well-being of some of the best athletes on the planet.   

“How do we highlight, showcase and improve athlete performance?” Lee said. “[3DAT] is a platform that we’ve developed that allows us to take standard video of athletes and then extract form from that video without the use of sensors or special uses, just A.I. and computer vision.”

From that vision, which Lee pointed out could be taken from any consumer camera (high definition, cellphone, mirrorless, etc.), 3DAT can extract the exo-skeleton of the athlete and spit out metrics and insights that can be used to improve performance. This data is also presented to viewers who tune in to the Games.

“When you watch the summer Olympics, you’ll see sprinting events like the one hundred meter,” Lee said,”After you see the race, you’ll see graphics that are powered by Intel that bring out some of the stories that happen in the race.” 

Some of the things Lee and his team are able to pull out based on these overlays is a runner’s acceleration and when an athlete hits their top speed.

When we put this out, we started working with coaches and athletes to help to collect data to train our A.I. models,” Lee said. “We heard from two or three different coaches that said that this is the holy grail of coaching.”

Lee said the next stage of the product is to get the service into the hands of developers who can build off the initial technology. He envisions at-home gyms that use cameras and on-demand programming as potential use cases, but more importantly he hopes the tracking system might be able to pinpoint areas in an athlete’s mechanics that help avoid injuries.

“A big focus right now is player safety and health,” he said. “This is something that we’re starting to explore. The NFL has concerns about concussions and across all sports soft tissue injuries are the things that can really derail a team’s season. So are the things that we help from either a baseline or monitor athletes for soft tissue injuries, either in a practice scenario or in games and help with rehab as well.” 

To hear more about how Intel is using A.I. tracking through everyday cameras, checkout the full episode of IT Visionaries!


To hear the entire discussion, tune into IT Visionaries here

Episode 290