8. March 2022 By Federico Winer
Digital twins are reinventing sports
A digital twin is a virtual duplicate of a physical product. The technology is used to create models that streamline real processes. It is irrelevant whether the counterpart already exists in the real world or will exist in the future. The use of such digital twins results in innovative ways to perform traditionally more time-consuming tasks, which has a direct impact on increasing the pace of innovation in the company.
The reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral as an example
A recent example of a business case scenario takes us to France. On April 2019, a fire broke out under the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris. By the time the structural fire had been put out the church’s spire had collapsed. In 2020, the National Heritage and Architecture Commission (CNPA) approved a new design.
But instead of using the structure itself as a blueprint for the reconstruction, because actual blueprints were not available, the project architects consult a digital twin of Notre Dame Cathedral to begin the restoration process. Using this technology made it possible to reduce the time required for the legal verification of the building and speed up construction.
If done right, digital twins can revolutionize any industry, including, of course, sports and entertainment. Historically, the vertical with the most day-to-day experience with DT was motorsports, here in the form of aerodynamics simulators. This is now changing.
Practical applications for digital twins with the NFL as an example
The NFL has always been known as a physically demanding sport. Several studies conducted in 2019 reported the average lifespan of an NFL player to be extremely low, ranging from 53 to 59 years on average, depending on the position they play. I therefore commend the league for its strategy to tackle this challenge through technology.
In 2021, the NFL and AWS sponsored a programme to address the lower life expectancy of players through a series of initiatives. One example was a $100,000 competition focused on analysing helmet contact in football games. The goal was to develop algorithms that match helmets with a target hit rate of 90 per cent to their wearers. The ultimate goal is to build a programme to monitor and prevent or reduce injuries.
The lead partner was Biocore, who consolidated a host of data sources including, for example, computer vision algorithms on top of Intel TrueView’s 360-degree volumetric video and wearables data from Catapult GPS and Zebra RFID sensors. Consolidated on Amazon Web Services ecosystem, the results can be seen in this video teaser.
An essential roadmap
Utilising virtual duplicates to analyse performance, rapidly test solutions and make real-time adjustments enables sports leagues, clubs and player associations to create a new roadmap. As the use of digital twins increases, I firmly believe that everyone involved in the sport stand is to benefit from having more sources of information available to them.
It is also important that governance officials and executives prioritise ethical considerations regarding how data is collected, managed and used. Highly sensitive information is collected in order to create digital twins. If any data is leaked, this will stand in way of the project goals being achieved and detract from the project in general.
Finally, I would like to note that access to data must be democratised in order to foster innovation. A policy of openness is beneficial for bringing on board academic researchers, start-ups, firms and universities that would be extremely glad to receive these datasets to test and build new twins. Future oriented leagues must push for such policies now.
At adesso we work with dozens of partners from sports, the media and entertainment to improve their core processes and foster innovation. Would you like to learn more about how we can support you with data collection, analysis and policies and new business models? Feel free to contact us.
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