Amid all of the hoopla that included bright lights, and the presence of several celebrities, Toronto technology, although subtle, was involved to a great degree during the NBA Basketball All -Star festivities held in Toronto on February 12 -14.
The festivities were ushered in with the latest addition the Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately, the fans would not be able to see the latest addition on the court, as it is not a player with extraordinary physical attributes, but a cognitive computing platform, powered by IBMWatson. is expected to be the centerpiece of the newly established war room, where players propensities and proclivities are learnt, and the likelihood of success predicted.
The weekend was kicked off with a tech summit where the Canadian born inventor of the game, the late Dr. James Naismith was in attendance via Humagram created by Toronto ARHT media. In addition to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and Dr. Naismith, also in attendance were TV executives, NBA team owners, several general managers and coaches, high-tech entrepreneurs, and NBA basketball industry insiders. The summit center around application of the technology in the game, where the league remains committed to embrace and implement cutting edges, such as VR, streaming in 4K, even holograms, and bringing fans much closer to the game, with players wearing connected devices.
Big data and basketball
The Sports Insight Central war room is where the Toronto Raptors will use IBM Watson in data mining, powerful pattern recognition, self-learning systems and natural language processing systems of artificial intelligence in simulation of the human thinking process. The first of a kind solution was develop to assist the team in decision-making.
Realms of data on prospective draft picks or trade candidates is pulled in from several sources, and crunched in real-time. It puts player and team statistics, video, social media sentiment and other related information at the disposal of the observer. The data can be quickly analyzed, and compared to the requirements of the team, assuring a much better fit. The learning system crunches data to predict what would usually be considered as unknown, or intangibles, such as how well the prospect will work with coaches and teammates, or even the likelihood of success or staying healthy.
Data crunching is not seen or heard, but what is seen is really impressive as the Toronto Raptors war room is lined with a curved wall of touch screens, several i Pads, digital whiteboards, and Audio Visual integration is enabled for streaming of AV conferencing.
Data is displayed for easy recognition, but according to Jim Rushton, leader of IBM Sports and Entertainment Practice Consortium, it is not designed to remove the human element, but allows much more confident decision-making in a much shorter period.
The IBM unit is also working with more than 250 venues around the world in efforts to enhance visitor engagement, so fans can also expect some enhanced experiences, as the initiative with MLSE also includes analysis of the design and construction of sports stadia or other venues. IBM hopes that the Toronto NBA Basketball initiative can be used as a template to be applied to sports teams.
The weekend also showcased new tech from Intel, with the use of free3D, which treated broadcast viewers to high-resolution 360-degree slow-motion digital photography replays. The replays, that reminiscent of the moves seen on the movie the Matrix, were also displayed on the arena screen at the Air Canada Center. The technology which was installed two weeks prior to the weekend, employed more than 28 5K cameras installed around the ACC. Instead of two-dimensional pixels, the images captured and sent back to Intel’s data center were transformed to 3-D voxels. The feeds are all combined into one view, allowing viewers an amazing 360-degree perspective on every play.
It may or may not have been a coincidence, but perhaps just an interesting observation, when the gravity-defying slam dunk NBA Basketball competition was held a few hours after the announcement of confirmation of Einstein’s gravitational waves theory. The freeD replays, as broadcast, almost seemed to deny the existence of any gravitational field, as the slam dunk competition was described by several as the best ever in the history of NBA Basketball All Star weekend. Not to be outshined, was an equally impressive display of aerial gravity-defying acrobatics from the Cirque de Soleil.