Watch AI Help Basketball Coaches Outmaneuver the Opposition

Coaches might be able to use AI to visualize their opponents movements before they happen.
Chris Young

Like any team game, basketball is a tactical sport. Coaches take to the board during games to tweak their team's strategy and try to outsmart the opposition.

There is one big limitation however; you can never be completely sure how the opposing team will respond.

This might be set to change. A new program powered by artificial intelligence allows basketball coaches to visualize how their opponents will react to their tactics in real-time.

Can you outsmart the opposition with technology? 

As reported, by Science Magazine, the technology works by allowing a coach to sketch on an interactive virtual tactic board on their computer. The attacking team is represented by red dots and the defending team as blue.

Impressively, an AI program trained on player movement data from the National Basketball Association converts these simple sketches into a simulation of how both sets of players would move, based on the tactics sketched on the board.

The program is based on a generative adversarial network, which has two virtual teams play against each other. One generates realistic player movements based on the sketches while the other gives feedback on how closely these movements match real-life players, as per the data from the National Basketball Association. This means the movements become progressively more realistic.

However, while basketball fans weren't shown to be able to reliably distinguish between simulations and real plays, top-level players were often able to do so. More work is still needed.

Will it catch on? The system could help coaches to visualize how defenders will approach their plays. We can imagine coaches and sports managers in any sport using systems like these during breaks in games to gain insight into the way their opposition will act.

With the controversy surrounding the much simpler VAR technology used in football in the English Premier League, will this really catch on, though? Will we be seeing humans playing, or two AIs playing against each other?

The researchers will present the findings of their report next month at the Association for Computing Machinery International Conference on Multimedia in Nice, France. 

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