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Artificial intelligence for sports fans

If you’re a fantasy football fan, you’ll know how much time it can take to pore over reams of statistics every week, only to have your carefully chosen team limp from their virtual field, a defeated rabble. To get an advantage over their opponents, fantasy sports players tap into many resources. But if players are all using the same resources – stats, online guides, commentaries – who’s really getting ahead?

With the USA’s National Football League (NFL) kicking off in September, a startup called Edge Up Sports is jostling to offer fantasy footballers the upper hand by recruiting an unconventional expert coach to its team: the artificial intelligence system, IBM Watson.

While Deakin University’s partnership with Watson enhances students’ experiences by providing essential information, Edge Up Sports is using the platform to mine player interviews, social media analysis and injury reports and then to quantify them as statistical success indicators for NFL players.

According to this article by Ars Technica, Edge Up is currently looking to raise $300,000 on Kickstarter in 28 days to have its platform ready for American fantasy footballers in September this year.

Edge Up is leveraging AlchemyData, which allows developers to query the world’s news like a database. This way it’s able to aggregate and analyse large amounts of public sentiment data and personality insights to understand the true intent and meaning behind social media posts and other media that mention players and clubs.

IBM Watson’s performance in the NFL season will be watched closely by hardcore fantasy footballers here in Australia – especially with Aussie Jarryd Hayne joining the San Francisco 49ers – but may also have sports scientists keeping a close eye on the results too. If the platform can accurately aggregate, analyse and help predict the performance of athletes based on articles, posts and communications, IBM Watson could well become an essential tool for all major sports organisations in the near future.

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