Sure, it’s convenient to have voice-controlled bots that can turn on our music or dictate emails, but the real dream for artificial intelligence has always been to create an emotionally intelligent machine. Only when A.I. tech can accurately read human emotions will we truly see the full potential for this technology to change our lives in fundamental ways.
We may be on the cusp of major A.I. breakthroughs, but culturally we have been fascinated by its possibilities at least since 1872, when Samuel Butler published the satire Erewhon to popular acclaim. “There is no security against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness,” he wrote. And while A.I. has functioned as a sci-fi trope for good versus evil and human versus machine ever since, it’s only become more relevant as our technology has become more sophisticated. The ethics of A.I. are beginning to pose real and important questions now that our technology is catching up to our imagination.
It’s this convergence of the real and the impossible that makes A.I. so gripping. Take the instant popularity of the new HBO hit Westworld, which poses the creepy questions we’ll soon have to ask ourselves in real life. Questions like, can we empathize with robots? What nuances make a robot seem human? And have we reached the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness that Samuel Butler warned about more than a century ago?
In many ways, A.I. technology is still catching up to the sci-fi realities presented in shows like Westworld. But thanks to the new convergence of A.I. and emotion recognition software, we are closer than ever before. These three startups are on the forefront of bringing emotionally controlled machines to life, stepping irrevocably across a line that has always separated fiction and reality.
By combining emotion research with big data and machine learning, Affectiva emerged from MIT’s Media Lab to lead the field in making software that can accurately read a wide range of facial expressions. Affectiva claims to have the world’s largest emotion database to date, with more than 4.5 million faces across 75 countries analyzed. Of more than 30 patents filed to date, Affectiva has secured seven so far.
Think about it: virtually any app on your phone could be enhanced by Affectiva’s analytics, from dating apps that could read your interest not by a swipe but a smile, to games that self-adjust based on the player’s level of engagement. Thanks to Affectiva, we’ll become even more addicted to our phones. The company is also working on software that can read emotion through voice, which would have a host of practical applications like better customer service interfaces. For now the technology is still making the rounds on the tech conference circuit, but we can expect to see Affectiva to partner with advertisers, app developers, and more. After all, it’s all about the user experience and creating technology that feels even more personalized and indispensable.
Lightwave is an “applied neuroscience platform” that promises golden data to marketers keen to understand audience engagements at peak moments in sporting events, movies, and more. By tracking real time biometric data from wearable wristbands embedded with sensors, Lightwave measures audience engagement at peak moments. Created by 29-year-old former DJ Rana June, Lightwave grew out of her frustration at not being able to read her audience’s engagement in real time. Major companies including Pepsi and Unilever have already utilized Lightwave to measure fan engagement at events like the NCAA basketball championship. 20th Century Fox also used Lightwave to track audience reaction to specific moments throughout The Revenant, providing much more precise feedback for the movie industry than self-reported metrics that were previously the benchmark for audience engagement.
Earlier this year Apple bought startup Emotient in a bid to take the lead in the emotion recognition race. Emotient uses facial recognition technology to read feelings. While we’re still waiting to see how Apple will integrate Emotient’s technology, it could be used to help advertisers read consumer reactions, or to help doctors interpret pain levels in patients. Emotient can accurately read different emotional responses based on faces in a large crowd of people, which could provide valuable feedback for marketing insights in a number of different fields.
Reading The Future of Feelings
Affectiva, Lightwave, and Emotient are just a few of the startups trying to solve the puzzle of how big data, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition algorithms can accurately interpret human emotion. The winning combination will likely combine facial recognition software with biometric sensors for more nuanced data feedback. It’s not hard to see how this would transform marketing, healthcare, and other industries. Once this technology goes mainstream, we’ll be one step closer to stepping over that invisible line that has long separated sci-fi’s version of A.I. from the very real future we are living into.
These days, the stadium is more than just a vessel–it’s an experience in and of itself. With new technology cropping up and improving every year, sports venues are doing their best to stay up-to-date. Certain elements are this are more than just nice to have–they are both necessities and opportunities.
Take wifi, for example. While a decade ago, fans might be content to keep their smartphones away during a game, the stakes are higher now. Connectivity is a priority for younger fans, and Cisco reports that Internet is “as important as air, water, food and shelter to one in three college students and young professionals.” This may sound hyperbolic, but think about it. Many of us live a significant portion of our lives online, with our social and professional lives hinging on Internet access. Without wifi, you’re probably going to lose your fans at halftime.
Then, there’s improved home technology. High definition big screen TVs make viewing a game at home just as awesome, twice as comfortable, and much cheaper than visiting the game physically. So there has to be something at the stadium fans can’t get at home. How about in-arena interactive hotspots? Sports leagues and brands are both leaning into this trend by building high-tech experiences that enhance fans’ stadium experience.
But don’t forget, the smartphone might be the biggest opportunity of all, and with fast, easy-access wifi, both advertisers and national leagues can hook into fans’ phones. Think seat upgrades, easy food and beverage purchasing, insider facts and insights, or any other number of modern, digital conveniences.
For an example of a high-tech stadium, look no further than Brooklyn’s Barclays center, one of the most connected stadiums in the world. Thanks to smart design and innovative ideas, fans can upgrade seats and even get notifications when the restroom line is shortest.
There’s also the in-process Mercedes Benz Stadium, which I’ve blogged about previously. In partnership with the Atlanta Falcons, IBM, and Daktronics, the smart stadium will give fans 360-degree views of the on-field action, employing state of the art sustainable technologies all the while. The goal is to give fans the best experience possible, complete with awesome technology, while using as little energy as possible.
If the stadiums of the future keep integrating technology that delights fans, provides perks, and saves energy to boot, the world of sports is in for an exciting ride in coming decades. After all, sports are all about connecting communities over shared passions. What better way to do that than going all in on digital?
Virtual reality technology is slowly seeping into several industries, including marketing and casino gaming and even travel, as companies realize the power of virtual experiences. Now, we’re seeing virtual reality technology making waves in the fitness industry with the introduction of a full-body fitness program that aims to help players improve their fitness level without having to set foot in a gym.
Ryan DeLuca of Boise, Indiana, retired from Bodybuilding.com and then teamed up with tech designer Preston Lewis to launch a new company centered on fitness: Black Box.
Black Box creates a full-body workout program customized for the user and allows players to complete their challenges online with others from their home or office. Workouts are completed entirely in virtual reality so a gym membership becomes obsolete.
The creators of Black Box are currently testing the concept and experience in their office, working through all the drill sequences and developing a scoring system. It’s been coined, ‘the gym of the future’ and could very well lead a new generation of gym experiences that give users a chance to completely immerse themselves in a fitness experience while getting in shape.
The game is designed as an adventure or mission so it doesn’t feel like you are working out. According to Black Box VR, “You aren’t working out. You are saving a city. Or solving a mystery. Or finding the treasure….Functional fitness in a fictional world.”
The company has developed three 40-minute exercise routines with different scenarios and have integrated props, such as electronic cable systems, for resistance training into the game. The app that goes along with the game keeps track of performance and all the details of the workout so the user can make adjustments and set goals.
Black Box is getting ready to revolutionize the fitness industry with a no-gym-required workout program. It could very well be paving the way to the future of fitness where simulating movement in a fictional world is just as effective — and maybe even more so — than lifting a dumbbell or running on a treadmill at the local gym.
As the holidays approach, it’s not just mistletoe, snow, and eggnog on people’s mind — it’s the anxiety-inducing prospect of gift-giving. What should you buy? What should you ask for? Socks, again? Or something more exciting? Whether you’re a confident shopper or not, it can be difficult to come up with good ideas year after year.
New technology can make a superb gift both to wrap and unwrap, but it can also be risky. Tech advances fairly rapidly, meaning most products have a shelf life that often ends with the next big upgrade. But if you’re constantly waiting for the “best” tech product, you’ll be waiting forever.
This seems to be the case with wearable technology. People sit around waiting for smartwatches to get smarter and end up missing out on all the great things they have to offer.
Maybe this is the year to embrace wearable technology, or maybe it’s not. Whatever the case, I submit to you several ideas that I think would make great gifts this holiday season.
With the New Year comes new goals, of which fitness is often one. FitBits make great gifts for close family members or loved ones that have expressed an interest. The newest versions are even better than the last: the FitBit Charge 2 now includes cardio monitoring and guided breathing; the Flex 2 is now smaller, more stylish, and water-resistant.
Samsung Gear is less about fitness than it is style and efficiency. The release date and pricing have not been released yet, but it will likely hit the shelves before the holiday. The S3 will be the first device to connect to high-speed LTE networks from its carrier. With the look of a luxury watch and the function of a cellular companion, word has it the watch will have a four-day battery life compared to the Apple Watch 2’s 18 hours.
Transitioning from the wrist to the head, one can’t talk about wearable technology anymore without mention of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Sony’s PlayStation VR, released on October 31, has a 5.7” display and a 100-degree field of vision.
On to AR, the Microsoft Hololens has been the talk of the tech world for some time now, but has yet to become commercially available. That all could change between now and the end of the year. The HoloLens overlays “holograms” onto your field of vision and lets you interact by tracking your head and hand movements.
These are just a few of the up-and-coming wearables in the tech world. In my opinion, a high-tech holiday season is a happy one. And if you can’t have a white Christmas, you might as well have a wearable one.
Google has been on top of cutting-edge technology since its now-ubiquitous search engine rose to prominence. You may or may not have noticed, but the search engine has gotten smarter: it learns from your behavior and alters your results based on search trends and location.
Essentially, Google is the king of algorithms. And guess what? Its machine learning algorithms can belong to your business, too. Recently, Google opened its Cloud Machine Learning platform to all businesses in public beta. Essentially, it allows businesses to train their own models at a faster rate using Google’s system — just a few hours compared to days or more.
Google, now part of conglomerate umbrella Alphabet, is much more than a search engine now, so this service has little to do with your daily queries. Still, it encompasses what we’ve come to expect from Google: speed, intelligence, and constant improvement. That is machine learning in a nutshell, too.
So, how can businesses utilize Google’s Cloud Machine Learning? We can take one example for starter’s: Airbus Defense and Space. This company used the system to automate the process of detecting and correcting satellite images that contain imperfections, like cloud formations, for example.
According to Mathias Ortner, the company’s Data Analysis and Image Processing Lead, “Google Cloud Machine Learning enabled us to improve the accuracy and speed at which we analyze the images captured from our satellites. It solved a problem that has existed for decades.”
More problems can be solved with machine learning — this only scratches the surface. Google has launched two separate services: their Machine Learning Advanced Solutions Lab, which allows businesses to work with Google engineers to solve complex problems, and the Cloud Start program, which offers educational workshops to teach them the fundamentals.
Considering it was Google’s engineers that worked with Niantic before the launch of Pokemon Go, an opportunity to work with the tech giant could definitely be transformative for many. With more businesses in the machine learning game, more customers across the board will benefit from smarter services geared to get even smarter over time.
Gatorade is more than just a beverage that makes TV athletes sweat blue. The brand has long been associated with sports, science, and wellness, as is evidenced by the Gatorade Science Sports Institute. The Institute and its newest satellite lab in Florida are proof of Gatorade’s continued dedication to athletic innovation.
The Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) was founded in 1985 with the mission of “helping athletes optimize their health and performance through research and education in hydration and nutrition science.” In partnership with researchers and universities, they study the effects of nutrition on athletes before, during, and after exercise.
So, what have they been up to since foundation 31 years ago? GSSI has researched exercise, nutrition, and sports equipment using the latest tools in physiology, biochemistry, and sensory response. Their results have led to superior formulations in taste and functionality. GSSI has also partnered with physicians, scientists and athletic trainers to establish a Field Testing Program to study the effects of electrolytes on athletic performance.
In other words, GSSI scientists study and develop sports nutrition and hydration. This translates to improved Gatorade products and a wealth of scientific findings to back them up.
GSSI has expanded beyond its headquarters in Barrington, Illinois in recent years, having opened up satellite labs in the UK and most recently, Bradenton, Florida. Some lucky media insiders were able to get a tour of the Florida satellite lab at IMG Academy just this month, and their account shows off the innovative work behind the scenes.
Sport Techie brings us exclusive photos and videos from the GSSI satellite lab, where they sampled new Gatorade products and the technology used by GSSI and its athletes. This included the BodPod, an air displacement plethysmography test that determines body composition for athletes of all ages; the Fuel Profile Test, which evaluates of how an athlete uses energy across a range of exercise intensities; and the Gx sports fuel customization platform, which includes a bottle with flip cap, pods with Gatorade formula and additional tech to provide athlete fueling recommendations.
GSSI shows the amazing ways in which sport technology can monitor our health and maximize athletic performance. Ultimately, their research should help athletes understand what their bodies need to keep healthy, strong, and moving.
The rapid growth of the gaming industry in recent years has turned many people into power players. We live in a new era of competition where video games and virtual reality gaming experiences are part of modern day culture, encouraging people to develop certain skills until they achieve a level of mastery.
Now, a company is launching an Olympic Games specifically for the $1 billion e-sports gaming industry, according to CNBC. Competitive gaming tournaments where participants play in teams to win medals may soon become the norm.
According to CNBC, the International eGames Group will be hosting the first ever e-sports Olympics in South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics. This will be a competition to earn medals and take home the gold for the participant’s country. National qualifiers for the 2018 Olympics will be held through 2017. Professional gamers from around the globe will be practicing their gaming skills and the event is expected to attract a large crowd.
E-Sports Gaming Culture
The concept of playing video games at a professional level is not something new. Until now, organizations like the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) have been hosting competitions in different countries to participate in world-renowned tournaments. Gamers play games like Street Fighter, Starcraft II and League of Legends, according to Mashable. The IeSF took the lead on pushing for E-sports to be part of the Olympic Games.
Multiplayer gaming competitions and tournaments have a history that can be traced back to the 1980s. Atari’s Space Invaders Tournament is one example of a highly publicized event that encouraged gamers to get out and compete at a professional level. Several other tournaments fueled by the rapid growth of PC games in the 1990s spurred the trend, according to The Market for Computer & Video Games.
Major League Gaming (MLG) was established in 2002 and since then, we’ve been seeings several competitive gaming tournaments and virtual arenas making their way into mainstream culture. In 2014, more than 11 million people simultaneously watched the 2014 League of Legends World Championship event; 71.5 million people watched pro-gaming in 2014, according to Red Bull, reports MCV.
While gamers around the globe are in full favor of making their mark on the world at the Olympic level, there is still ongoing debate as to whether playing a video game — and even the skillet to win a game — qualifies as a real sport. Many people are questioning whether the whole tournament is more like a competition rather than a sport someone would train for since there is no real physical component or rigorous training program involved. Others argue that chess was once considered to be a sport, and so gaming may fall under the same category.
Professional Gamers On the Rise
While some may not take professional gaming seriously, the process of becoming a pro does require many hours of practice and skills development. Many professional gamers join online forums to learn tips and strategies for playing different games. There are dozens of online tournaments for those who want to brush up on their skills or continue developing their skills without the pressure of having to win a medal. Major League Gaming, for example, hosts online GameBattles where players can participate for free and win cash.
Online tournament enrollment requirements vary by team and most are designed for team players which means gamers need to seek out people they want to play with and not just compete with. Some companies that host tournaments charge a fee for entry or participation. And, there is a wealth of information online for studying the techniques and play styles of successful gamers. Pros-in-training need to know how to maneuver their joysticks or touch pads, use different types of virtual reality gear, and troubleshoot different gaming tools.
An Olympic Games for E-sports is on the horizon and many professional gamers are busy training like athletes for these highly-competitive events. Video games as a sport is now being taken seriously but is not without its critics. As the gaming industry continues to innovate and grow with virtual reality technologies and advanced gaming systems, we may see players developing even more advanced skills and techniques that put them in a completely new category of competitive athletes of the future.
This post was originally featured on TechCrunch.com
Marijuana is an ancient plant with borderline mystical properties — just ask the 266 million people who smoke it every year. Hemp, the industrial strain of Cannabis sativa, has been used for many purposes — food, fuel and textiles among them — for tens of thousands of years. Unlike its sister strain, hemp can’t get you high. But much like the drug, it has extraordinary qualities.
America is no stranger to hemp. In fact, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag with hemp and George Washington farmed it at Mt. Vernon. Unfortunately, its full potential was never realized; drug restrictions that banned marijuana suppressed hemp, too. This spurious conflation quashed the industry for about 60 years, until a 2014 farm bill defined it as an agricultural crop, leaving the door ajar to American farmers.
As marijuana laws continue to loosen across the country — and the world — it looks like hemp could be brought back in a big way. With China leading in worldwide hemp production and Canadahaving capitalized on it during America’s drug war, now is the time to get in the game. In today’s fast-paced and tech-driven world, this means re-adopting the plant for today’s innovation economy.
Hemp could make a huge difference in everyday products, certainly. But even more exciting are the groundbreaking research and high-tech products it’s already spearheading.
Before we launch into some of hemp’s cooler applications, it’s important to understand just what makes hemp so unique.
First and foremost, hemp is incredibly environmentally friendly. Instead of depleting the land’s nutrients, like cotton does, hemp actually puts nitrogen back into the soil. It takes less water, but produces more plants per acre (for reference, one acre of hemp produces four times the paper an acre of trees does.) Its low lignin content and natural brightness reduces the need for pulping and bleaching, meaning fewer chemicals are needed all around.
Hemp grows in a wide variety of soils and climates, so it can be harvested in all 50 states (though only about half legally). It’s one of the strongest plant fibers and is naturally resistant to weeds and pests. It harvests quickly, growing 10 to 20 feet in just four months.
Then you have hemp seeds, an incredible source of protein. More than 25 percent of their calories come from high-quality protein, considerably more than similar foods like chia seeds and flax seeds. Various studies have linked them to a reduction in risk of heart disease and easing of PMS and digestion.
Hemp is also ideal for the production of ethanol, the cleanest-burning liquid bio-alternative to gasoline. Combustion releases water vapor and CO2, which plants absorb.
It’s no wonder hemp is called a smart plant, as it seems almost too good to be true, especially in a world rife with environmental and climate concerns. Considering farmers need the DEA’s approval before sowing seeds, there is still a barrier to entry — for now, anyway.
Restrictions aside, preliminary research has yielded results that only confirm hemp’s potential, and not just as an everyday alternative to cotton and wood, but for high-tech innovations.
Ever heard of graphene? Hemp fiber is also incredibly strong and light, and Dr. David Mitlin, a scientist from Clarkson University in New York, says his team has mimicked the nanomaterial’s amazing qualities using hemp waste. According to Dope Magazine:
Dr. Mitlin and his team were able to recycle leftover hemp-based fiber, cook it down and then dissolve it until carbon nanosheets that resembled the structure of graphene were left behind. They proceeded to build these nanosheets into powerful energy-storing supercapacitors with high energy density, thus creating a hemp based “graphene.”
The best part? This graphene-like hemp costs only a fraction of the price of traditional graphene: $500 a ton compared to $2,000 per gram. Dr. Mitlin also suspects the hemp-based product could outperform graphene.
Another amazing product is hempcrete, a concrete made with hemp and lime. For construction, hempcrete is essentially a super-concrete: Its negative CO2 footprint alleviates the greenhouse effect and improves air quality. Its natural insulation keeps homes warm or cool, reducing need for energy. Its resistance to cracks under high pressure makes it well-suited for earthquake-prone areas. It’s even mold, fire and termite proof.
Hemp also can be used to create bacteria-fighting fabrics. As early as the 1990s, scientists in China were developing blended hemp fabrics with superior resistance to staph in order to prevent sometimes fatal infections in hospitals. Considering at least two million Americans get staph infections when hospitalized, and 90,000 die, this could be a life-saving innovation here in the U.S.
Luckily, Colorado company EnviroTextiles is on it. The company’s hemp-rayon fabric blend has shown in preliminary studies to be 98.5 percent staph resistant and 65.1 percent pneumonia-free. In addition, EnviroTextiles offers hemp fabric resistant to UV and infrared wavelengths, ideal for military purposes.
These are just a few of the many high-tech and future-forward applications hemp has. As a form of sustainable agriculture, hemp farming holds enormous potential — for the planet, the economy, and even veterans seeking employment. Once the hemp is produced, it may not get you high, but figuratively, the sky’s the limit.
After all, how fitting is it for an ancient plant, used both 10,000 years ago and in early America, to continue its legacy in our modern world? Betsy’s hemp-based flag became a symbol for the country, which is now a leader in technological innovation. It would be foolish not to take the bull by the horns and ride it.
Thanks to the Internet of Things, we’re awash in more data than we know what to do with. Data from our cars, our watches, our toothbrushes — collecting information is the easy part, but handling it can be complicated. Machine learning can make sense of data, and the implications could help IoT — and wearables specifically — really take off.
When machines are designed to recognize patterns and update their algorithms accordingly, they can make wearable technology more useful for consumers. An article on Warable.com explains some of the opportunities machine learning already presents for technology companies and their wearable products.
Take Google as one example. Android Wear’s “Google Now” app is getting a new feature called “Now On Tap” that uses machine learning to provide contextual suggestions without any prompting. Between search, email, text, location, calendar, and apps, the amount of data that can be mined is huge, and the software can learn a lot about you and what you need at any given moment. It might suggest movie times and trailers when a friend texts you about seeing a film, or quick lunch spots based on your physical location and schedule.
Apple is working on similar technology through which the Apple Watch will recommend more and more relevant apps based on user data. Machine learning could also empower Siri to make informed, proactive suggestions.
Since fitness is the most popular form of wearable, machine learning is influencing the efficacy of health software as well. The Microsoft Band will use the company’s Intelligence Engine to learn how your daily activities influences your exercise routine. The system could, for example, determine whether a high amount of meetings correlates with a slower run, or less sleep.
On the healthcare end, wearables with sensors can inform medical professionals of patient data such as air quality, humidity, steps, times opening the fridge, or using the bathroom. This provides a more comprehensive picture of a patient’s wellness.
Wearables can also track and learn about wearer’s emotions, body movements, fertility, and medication compliance.
All of this together may seem amazing and terrifying at the same time. I see it as an inevitability of technology; we have the data, so it follows that we’ll program the technology to take advantage of it. As long as it’s being used with consent of the user to the user’s advantage, it has the possibility to benefit all of mankind.
This post was originally featured on TechCrunch.com
The latest sports phenomenon sweeping the globe wasn’t represented at the Olympic Games in Rio; it doesn’t require an intense physical training regimen or even traditional sports equipment. We’re talking about e-sports — competitive video gaming — and the opportunities for huge windfalls for players and advertisers are immense. Corporations plan to spend $325 million on sponsorships and marketing of e-sports this year, hoping to reach gaming’s huge millennial demographic as the sport goes viral.
The idea of publicizing video game competitions is nothing new. In 1972, Stanford University invited students to an “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics” for the game Spacewar. The prize? A year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. These days, prize pools for major competitions, like Call of Duty, are at least in the six-figure range, and crowdfunded prize pools boost those paychecks into the millions.
Beyond advertisers and gamers, the real money up for grabs here is for the tech companiesthat can successfully bring these competitions to a worldwide audience in a mainstream media format. With the industry projected to generate more than $1.9 billion in revenue by 2018, there are various rising tech players to watch as this fierce competition heats up.
Recently emerged from stealth mode, startup Genvid Technologies has the lofty goal of creating “revolutionary eSports broadcasts.” By bringing interactive elements and multiple camera angles into live-streamed games, co-founder Jacob Navok hopes to hook a whole new audience with more compelling broadcasts and greater opportunities to monetize competitions.
The challenge is that video games are built with players, rather than spectators, in mind. Genvid hopes to solve this problem by enabling developers to control camera angles during live-streamed games as if they were in the editing booth at major sporting events. This would create a more compelling narrative with built-in storytelling and emotion — something that would be appealing to sponsors, advertisers and viewers.
Genvid hopes to challenge Twitch, the leading streaming platform for e-sports, which has a staggering 45 million monthly viewers. Twitch’s single-camera perspective, Novak says, is like “watching a Major League Baseball game from the viewpoint of a GoPro camera strapped to a player’s back.” It’s pretty easy to see the huge potential for profit if Genvid is successful with its current free demo phase and upcoming beta tests withe-sports companies.
ESPN performed some unexpectedly successful beta testing of its own last June when it became the first sports magazine to dedicate an entire issue to e-sports. One of the issue’s featured stories on a top gamer received more than 1.1 million page views on ESPN.com. Realizing professional coverage of this burgeoning arena would have a huge instant audience, ESPN launched a dedicated e-sports vertical this year. ESPN2 even televised an entire live competition called Heroes of the Dorm last year. We can expect to see the sports juggernaut roll out even more coverage of e-sports in coming months.
We can’t have a conversation about e-sports without discussing its mobile applications. An app that improves the players, not the game? Germany’s got that. Technology is making it even easier for aspiring players looking to cash in on the huge prizes available to top gamers with Dojo Madness, a Berlin-based startup with plans to turn gamers’ smartphones into an e-sports coach. Through advances that combine machine learning with in-play data, Dojo Madness has created a coaching app that raised $4.5 million in its first round of funding. Initially targeting League of Legends, the app offers strategy before and during the game, and analyzes performance in a post-game recap.
This second-screen technology will be huge in the age of big data. League of Legends, among other games, offers open APIs, enabling e-sports companies to pull in gameplay data, which in turn makes in-game coaching possible. The company’s League of Legends app, called LOLSumo, is already the top app for this game, with more than half a million downloads.
Another big player capitalizing in the e-sports area isActivision, a company hoping to “activize” more cash in their cache. Earlier this year, in a $46 million deal, Activision Blizzard acquired Major League Gaming, an early organizer of e-sports competitions. Valued at $27 billion, Activision is already a leader in the industry as the publisher of leading franchises, such as Call of Duty, but this move signals that they want more than the game — Activision wants to dominate the entire arena of e-sports.
According to chief executive Robert Kotick, Activision hopes to create “the ESPN of eSports” by bringing mainstream viewing away from the internet and onto traditional cable TV channels. This could be tough competition, as ESPN still intends to be the ESPN of e-sports — may the best company win!
Kotick hopes to tap into an even bigger audience than the online community by bolstering televised broadcasts with the same kind of coverage that traditional sports receive. In the spirit of the Games, Activision and Genvid Technologies should play on the same team instead of as opponents.
The budding startups, big tech companies and TV channels planning to capitalize on e-sports are just the beginning of the sport’s global rise. TheInternational e-Sports Federation(IeSF) even took steps to be recognized by the Olympic Committee in February, and was provided the necessary route to become an official sport in April. Indeed, e-sports could be on the Olympic stage before we know it — but until then, there will be no shortage of players getting their heads and wallets in the game.