By Jan Bastiaansen
In recent years, there has been a surge of technology applied for use cases beyond our everyday digital lifestyle. At a time where the use of wearables, IoT, and big data is paving the way for technological breakthroughs in all fields and industries, it is also used in fields that are less associated with technology. Take sport and an athlete's performance, where technology increasingly is becoming the determining factor between being a gold medalist and the runner-up that everyone will forget tomorrow. In athletics, cycling, Formula-1, data analytics can be the driving force behind the improving the athletes' performance and taking their game to the next level. Combining technology with surfing, however, is probably not something that first comes to mind. Here we are not talking about our daily surfing the internet, but the actual surfing on waves (yes the type you see in the sea from the beach).
The sport of surfing is known to originate from Hawaii where trees were carved into provisional longboards for riding the island's massive waves. Over the last decades, the sport has gained popularity all over the world and will be an Olympic sport for the first time during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
During this year's Alibaba Cloud Computing Conference in Hangzhou, the sport of surfing was used to experiment with the use of technology by adding a digital layer of fun to this legendary sport. Under the project name #TheWave, visitors were invited to ride waves created by a standing wave machine, while their body movements were being tracked by Alibaba Cloud motion detection technology to determine their positioning and posture. Another layer of technology is added to capture the best moments of the (prospective) surfing legend by automatically analyzing the video and outputting a ten-second video of the best performance of the wave machine surfer. With this collaboration between Alibaba Cloud, AliExpress, and several partners the team envisioned to showcase how tech can improve a sport and make it accessible to a wider public.
Let's first look at how this technology works. Cameras with motion-detection technology compare sequential images and determine whether the differences between them represent a movement/motion. If those differences are significant enough, the camera "decides" there is motion and action will be taken on that. In this case, that means the (prospective) surfer entering the scene and getting on the board and the recording can start. In a similar way, the end of the session is determined and allows to automatically stop recording. Through a combination of analysis of previous surfing video data and posture technology that analyzes and models the participant's movements from different angles, the surfer's performance can be determined and be measured in a smart way.
By making use of the powerful media processing capabilities of Alibaba Cloud's ApsaraVideo and the AI Video technology of Alibaba Machine Intelligence Technology Lab highlights can be generated from your surfing experience. Next, an AI algorithm determines whether the performance was good or bad, and can automatically select a surfer's 10 best seconds on the surfboard. The intelligent Cloud switchboard allows the organizer to see the different sessions instantly and the Video-on-Demand service is used to analyze, denoise, merge and cut the final result and deliver it in real time. Through fast clipping technology, the video highlight is instantly delivered to the cloud. This allows the participant to view and share their video in a split second to different social media platforms.
The possible applications of such technologies are endless and undoubtedly change the way we experience sport and how athletes train and prepare for their matches. This is also attested by the organizers of the #TheWave project when being asked about the possibilities for their favorite sports surfing. They picture AI judges for their sport or supporting technology that aids the judges on the scoring of contestants. As their sport is very dependent on weather conditions, off-water training opportunities could be a future avenue of development whereby beginners can benefit from virtual reality-based practice environments, before hitting it off in the real ocean.
#TheWave has shown us during the Alibaba Cloud Computing Conference that this digital layer adds to the enjoyment of a sport. This has just been one application of how technology can enhance the way we experience a sport. In the near future, we can expect to see more and more sports being disrupted by technologies such as; data analytics, machine learning, and visual technologies. Not only that but also the recent trend of e-sports has shown us that the boundaries of real-life and virtual sports are blurring. Let's see what it will bring for surfers and other sports alike. The team at #TheWave taught us that the only way to find out is to jump on and ride the wave, just don't fall off.
For the latest news and video replays of The Computing Conference 2018, visit www.alibabacloud.com/the-computing-conference-2018.
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