AI Could Make Athletic Coaching More Affordable

Coaching is a crucial part of any athletic sport. From up and coming athletes to Olympians, everyone needs an expert who can help them improve and cater to their personal needs. However, AI systems are now nearly sophisticated enough to do the job just as well as — or even better in some ways — than human experts.

Coaching and training is also an important part of being able to go to space. Asgardia, the first ever space nation, has the long-term goal of setting up habitable platforms in space, and so, this technology could be useful for other applications as well – like allowing more people to live in space sooner.

An iPhone app known as HomeCourt is now designed for basketball players to track their shots – and it might be the first of its kind. The athlete has to prop up the phone camera and make sure it is aimed at them while they practice, then the app will track the position and success rate of each shot. According to The Wall Street Journal, the free app gives real-time feedback to users, complete with an automatically-spliced video recording of every single shot the athlete takes so they can check their form. Well, that is as long as you shoot 300 shots per month or less— after that the user is prompted to pay $8 for a subscription.

Of course, there are more apps out there than just HomeCourt. For example, Coach’s Eye, allows athletes to review and annotate their footage. And while many of these apps help athletes film themselves, none of them use AI to help improve performance. Without an expert there to review the footage, these athletes may not even know what they’re looking for.

To date, HomeCourt isn’t as sophisticated as a real-life human coach and sometimes the app’s AI gets confused if there’s more than one person on the court. However, David Lee, the Co-Founder and CEO of NEX Team, the company behind HomeCourt, is optimistic about how AI will be able to serve athletes in the future.

Lee told Futurism that eventually, they believe the company can provide a platform where coaches and trainers can be actively training and coaching their players through the app from anywhere, anytime. He added that some athletes are already using HomeCourt to work remotely with their coaches when one of them is on the road. This means athletes can get feedback from coaches depending on what the AI saw during a solo practice session.

Although HomeCourt’s AI might be rudimentary now, it represents a key first step. Seeing as Artificial intelligence and apps are much less expensive when compared to the elite coaches that kids are expected to hire if they want to get good enough to go pro, it could democratize the way that people train and improve.

Lee intends to make the app capable of new measurements, in the future, so it can learn even more about a player, some of which a human coach can’t readily ascertain. For basketball players, HomeCourt would look for things like jump height, speed, and release time, and analyze how each factor plays a role in an athlete’s accuracy.

Lee also hopes to bring the HomeCourt’s level of analysis to other sports.  For instance, tennis might be the next step, since the court is similarly marked with clear lines that help the AI gauge where people are standing. But other sports and activities may see AI coaches in the near future as well. Even some atypical ones such as yoga.

Lee explained that their app can track a person’s poses for something like downward dog and provide instant feedback about adjustments to help a yogi improve.  He also stated that simply seeing ourselves doing yoga along with actionable insights could transform yoga since most people don’t presently get any feedback about their poses and how they can improve if they practice alone. Thus, AI could be a great learning tool for many yoga practitioners who only do yoga at home, instructed by a video.

Regardless if HomeCourt (or a similar AI system) reaches a given sport, it’s obvious that sports technology is becoming more and more sophisticated.  In today’s world, athletes and coaches have access to a massive amount of analytics and data, which helps them find more specific ways to improve their games that wouldn’t have even been imaginable in the past. Of course, the most essential part of improving sports through AI is to ensure that these technologies are available to everyone. Otherwise, tools like HomeCourt will only help the privileged few who already had access to the best money can buy.

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Image Credit: Phonlamai Photo / Shutterstock


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