Microsoft, Anil Kumble, Star India to harness AI for sports broadcasting

Microsoft Corp and Anil Kumble’s technology start-up, Spektacom Technologies, with support from broadcast partner Star India, have jointly announced the introduction of the Power Bat. The Power Bat provides players, coaches, commentators, fans and viewers with a completely new and unique way to engage with the sport and help improve their game – all powered by the Microsoft Azure cloud platform using AI and Internet of Things (IoT) services. 

Microsoft has been working closely with Spektacom and its founder Anil Kumble, former captain of the Indian cricket team, to incubate and launch the product, as part of its ScaleUp program. Star India has used the technology successfully in recent series to provide real-time statistics and insights straight off the oval. 

“We’re excited to be a part of the work Spektacom and Star India are doing to enhance the cricket experience for fans, players and coaches,” said Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President, Microsoft. “We’ve already seen the impact that connected devices have had in other industries, and we believe that with the advancements in our AI and cloud services, this is just the beginning of what’s possible for not only cricket, but all sports.” 

Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Star India, said, “Star India has always strived to redefine and elevate experiences for sports fans. From multi-language feeds and Select Dugout to VR and Watch n’ Play, the coverage of Vivo IPL demonstrates our commitment towards creating new benchmarks in how technology is deployed to deepen fan engagement. The Power Bat promises to be another step in the same direction, and we look forward to the partnership with Anil Kumble (Spektacom) and Microsoft in bringing it to our broadcasts.” 

Anil Kumble added here, “Our vision is to bring sports closer to fans through interesting ways of engagement using real-time sports analytics. At the same time, it is important that the technologies used are seamless and do not disrupt the game or obstruct the players. With Microsoft, we have been able to create a secure and effective solution, and with Star India, we have a partner that can stimulate and excite fan engagement.” 

When asked about the cost of the Power Bat, Kumble claimed that it would be quite affordable. He said, “We want to reach out to everybody and therefore, it should be accessible and affordable to everybody who wants to play the sport. The idea is to involve the fans and interact with their heroes. That is what we want to achieve more than anything else.” 

Talking about the partnership with Microsoft and the use of Artificial Intelligence technology, he added, “We have initiated this partnership with Microsoft so that we can serve to bring in the AI into the game itself. For that, we need enough data. The only way we can collect all of that information is if we have enough data. The more the number of players use it, the more will be the number of data.” 

The Power Bat is a unique concept whereby a lightweight, Azure Sphere-powered sticker is stuck on the shoulder of the bat – a form factor that is completely unobtrusive. In a live match, as soon as the batsman hits the ball, data on different parameters (speed on impact, twist on impact and quality of the shot – percentage proximity of the ball’s contact to the sweet spot of the willow) are captured in a new unit of measurement titled Power Speks. Microsoft’s Azure Sphere ensures that the data is securely captured and processed. Using advanced analytics and AI services on Azure, real-time insights are captured through the stump box and displayed via the broadcaster. During practice or coaching, the same data can be viewed through a mobile app. Although the technology introduced by Spektacom has its first use case in cricket, for Microsoft, Anil Kumble and Star India this is the first of many sports where it can be used. 

Microsoft believes in leveraging its technology and its people to help sports teams and organisations solve their toughest challenges. By leveraging the company’s intelligent cloud and productivity solutions, sports organisations worldwide are connecting with fans, optimising team and player performance, and managing their operations in new, innovative ways.


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