Israeli company turns televised sport into whole new ballgame

Need a replay or player statistics? SportVU promises to turn armchair enthusiasts of televised soccer into overnight specialists with its new sports analysis system.It may only be a game – but televised soccer is nothing to treat lightly, says Israeli …

Need a replay or player statistics? SportVU promises to turn armchair enthusiasts of televised soccer into overnight specialists with its new sports analysis system.It may only be a game – but televised soccer is nothing to treat lightly, says Israeli start-up SportVU. Thanks to the company’s innovative approach to sports analysis, the average viewer can now challenge the most clued-in aficionado for the title of most committed fan – and all without leaving the comfort of the armchair.

Even after only five months on the market, the system is already causing a stir among those who broadcast, monitor, analyze and bet on the outcome of professional sports.

Dreamed up by a group of high-tech entrepreneurs boasting experience in such fields as visual intelligence, computer graphics and automated data analysis, SportVU “brings a new dimension of fun, understanding and fan involvement to the game,” CEO Gal Oz, a graduate of the Israel Defense Force’s Visual Intelligence Unit, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

And by giving users access to a constant stream of information, such as player statistics, view data, field replays, and an enticing array of individually named applications, SportVU probably also has the potential to transform even the most apathetic of us into die-hard fans.

Despite the veneer of complexity, the technology itself is remarkably simple, according to co-founder Dr. Miky Tamir, unlike competing analysis systems which require players to be equipped with an electronic device, or a large array of cameras.

In contrast, SportVU, merely requires three fixed cameras, which together film the live action on the ground and upload the information to an enabled computer – at which point the technological wizardry of the software takes over.

Mobile agents on the sports field – players, referees and, of course, the ball – are treated as “objects,” the creators explained. The technology then converts the on-ground action into real-time data regarding the relationship between these objects – their position, speed, and distance traveled – and using this algorithm is able to digest such sophisticated details as atmospheric conditions, player behavior, and even energy levels.

It’s an approach that is already causing a stir. After premiering its system in September at the Amsterdam-based entertainment technologies conference IBC, the company looks set to go far, planning to develop its analytical capabilities to suit American football and rugby matches. It’s easy to believe that SportVU has kicked off something extraordinary, ushering in what Oz calls “a new era in sports broadcasting.”

For teams, that means better data analysis which can improve performance. For broadcasters, that means radically enhanced programming. And for the rest of us – well, that armchair is beginning to look more enticing than ever before.

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