It seems like only yesterday that artificial intelligence (AI) was the stuff of science fiction - a concept, rather than grounded in reality. Marketers in particular have waxed lyrical about the potential of AI for perhaps five years or so, but during that time much of the conversation around AI has been the manifestation of a sort of'shiny new tech syndrome'. To suggest – as many do – that AI is still a buzzword, is to vastly underestimate how it, when paired with the right data and the increase in demand for intelligent virtual assistants, is already radically altering aspects of marketing. At The Drum Arms at Advertising Week New York, last week, The Drum co-founder and editor-in-chief, Gordon Young, took the stage with Microsoft Advertising, the American basketball league NBA and digital agency Digitas, to discuss how this combination of data and AI will define – and in some cases is already defining – the future of marketing. Jorge Urrutia del Pozo, head of fan audience strategy and engagement at the NBA, discussed how he and his team utilize the huge and various amounts of data that the NBA creates.
Coaches might be able to use AI to visualize their opponents movements before they happen. 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.
When it comes to teaching basketball players how to execute a winning drive to the hoop, a tactic board can be a coach's best friend. But this top-down view of the court has a major limitation: It doesn't reveal how the opposing team will respond. A new program powered by artificial intelligence (AI) could change that. A coach sketches plays on a virtual tactic board on their computer, representing their own players as red dots and the defending team as blue dots. Once they drag their virtual players around to indicate movements and passes, an AI program trained with player movement data from the National Basketball Association converts these simplified sketches into a realistic simulation of how both offensive and defensive players would move during the play.
Technology has sprinted ahead at an unprecedented rate over the past few years, but the viewing of sports events has largely been left behind. While there have been some developments--such as adding commentary, informational graphics, different camera angles, and slow-motion replays--change has been slow and incremental. Sports fans are no longer content with simply sitting and watching matches. They are passionate, they like to have a wealth of information at their fingertips, and become their own commentator. There is a demand for greater interactivity and immersion.
"Nothing compares to an actual human being helping out whenever you need," he quips to NBA basketball star Chris Paul. "Plus, humans won't start crying weird AI tears all over your car." It's a clever dig at other insurance companies that are investing in bots or automated responses in their customer service departments. In a recent PwC survey, "Experience is everything: here's how to get it right," it is reported that 82% of U.S. and 74% of non-U.S. So, while the majority agree with Chris Paul, AI and machine learning solutions can positively impact insurance agencies in other business processes.
As data breaches, misuse of personal information and the spread of disinformation erode the public's trust in Silicon Valley, it can be all too easy to become cynical about technology's impact on the world. But there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about tech's role in society moving forward. Below, TIME speaks to 10 innovators, founders, investors and even athletes who remain upbeat about technology's influence despite the many challenges facing the industry today. Moustapha Cisse left Senegal a decade ago to study artificial intelligence, and now he believes the technology can change Africa for the better. Cisse, 34, is leading Google's AI research center in Accra, Ghana, the company's first such venture in Africa. "I built my team here around people who are really committed to make a difference in people's lives," Cisse tells TIME. "[They] bring a fresh perspective in the field by looking at the problems that we have in Africa." Growing up, no one would have expected Cisse to be heading up a multi-billion dollar corporation's research initiative.
My family and I continue to have more and more conversations with Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant lately. Having three AI based sources within speaking range of each other, we have a tendency to fact check them against one another - especially when someone doesn't quite trust or agree with the answer they get. For example, is Australia considered a continent or is it Oceania? Is a hot dog a sandwich? Who is the best NBA player of all time ever?
Today, the AI-powered basketball training app HomeCourt is being drafted by the NBA to help it find and develop the next Williamson. The NBA has announced a new partnership with HomeCourt that uses the app's technology to develop and train players at all skill levels, making it an integral part of the league's youth basketball development initiatives around the world. In addition, the league is making a strategic investment in Nex Team, the San Jose-based startup behind HomeCourt as part of its $8.5 millon series A funding round. Other investors include Will Smith's Dreamers Fund, the Alibaba Entrepreneurship Fund, and a laundry list of pro ballers, including Al Horford, Sue Bird, Bradley Beal, and the Plumlee brothers (Mason and Miles), all of whom join Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Brooklyn Nets co-owner (and Alibaba executive vice chairman) Joe Tsai, both of whom also invested in Nex Team's seed round last summer. In the year since its launched, HomeCourt has logged more than 25 million shots, 20 million dribbles, 3.5 million minutes, with users across 170 countries.