Tracking down a competitive advantage

Vision-Based Sports Analytics workshop

Australia’s high-performance athletes could soon have unrivalled insight into their opponents’ tactics thanks to developments in the world of computer vision technology, according to a data analyst at the AIS.

The fast-paced field – which uses computers and other machines to extract, process and analyse information from video and other images – presents wide-ranging possibilities for sport.

‘Computer vision is all about maximising what we can learn from the behaviour of people. What can we learn about people from pictures and video?’ says the AIS’s Dr Stuart Morgan, who recently attended the IEEE Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Portland, Oregon.

According to Dr Morgan, computer vision offers greater potential for sport than similar technologies such as GPS as it can track players without devices being attached to them – which means opponents can also be monitored. ‘We can measure what the opposition are doing. So this means that in certain sports we can potentially know more about what our opponents are doing than what they know themselves’, he said.

‘That’s a competitive advantage we want.’

To date the AIS, which has been collaborating with international research groups such as Disney Research, has been largely focused on player detection in team sports such as hockey. ‘One of the first and most meaningful projects we did was in men’s hockey,’ says Dr Morgan. ‘We looked at the influence players had on their opponents when they pressed them. How did we impact on their workload? How could we balance that against what it does to our own workload? It was a great strategic insight.’

But while computer vision is a more time-consuming technology than GPS – with a great deal of behind-the-scenes analysis occurring after an event – Dr Morgan is excited by the possibilities. Beyond tracking opponents in team sports there’s also potential for aquatic and racing events, and he is confident that innovation will continue at a cracking pace. ‘The people who are involved in computer vision generally have little interest in sport. But sport provides the opportunity for a lot of complex computer vision tasks and the solutions are transferable to other domains.

‘So there is a lot of interest and funding out there, and this is why new developments are happening constantly.’

A workshop on vision-based sports analytics will be held at the International Conference on Computer Vision 2013 in Sydney on 2 December. Speakers will include David Martin from AIS Cycling, Peter Blanch from Cricket Australia, and Iain Matthews – the man responsible for developing the face-recognition software used for Avatar.

From the Australia Sports Commission –


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