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The Game Changers

Sports Analytics and AI

Craig Butin, Co-Founder and CEO of SPORTSLOGiQ

Calling all athletes, fanatics, and those who just love to be in a crowd that is super excited about sports!!!! SPORTLOGiQ Co-Founder and CEO, Craig Buntin, invites you to explore AI to enhance your game. Using the advanced technology that Craig and his team of experts have developed, your team can improve its plays to guarantee more wins, while commentators can make their stories more interesting to hear. Want to learn more? Just step out onto the field and get ready to change your game!

Tamara: Can you share a story that inspired you to get involved in AI?

Craig: Prior to co-founding SPORTLOGiQ, I was an Olympic athlete. I retired from sport in 2010 and moved into my MBA, where I did an independent study, looking at a number of new and emerging technologies. At that time, we were just beginning to see big breakthroughs in machine learning and pattern recognition which were enabling some pretty exciting changes in a number of industries. The thing that really captured my imagination was seeing cars that could drive themselves.

Tamara: Describe your company and the AI/predictive analytics/data analytics products/services you offer.

Craig: SPORTLOGiQ uses an AI platform to help professional sports teams win more games and helps broadcasters tell better stories. We track over 158 million data points per game and recognize what each player is doing, what they should be doing, and how well they’re doing it. We currently work with 24 NHL teams, as well as a handful of Premier League football and NFL teams. We live at the intersection of AI and sport and it’s a really exciting time.

Tamara: How do you see the AI/data analytics/predictive analysis industry evolving in the future?

Craig: I have to start by briefly unpacking the term “AI”. It’s a loaded term. It encompasses data analytics / predictive analysis / machine learning / pattern recognition / etc. One could make a case that many aspects of AI are already embedded in the products and services we use on a daily basis. I believe that each of these “pieces of AI” is a tool that will be used to make our lives better. They will enable fundamental change in industries that, right now, desperately need changing. We are facing enormous challenges as a species that we will need to tackle in our generation and in generations to come. Each piece of what we now call AI will be a tool for tackling those challenges.

Tamara: What is the biggest challenge facing the industry today in your opinion?

Craig: Two that come to mind off the top of my head:

  1. Responsible development. As with any new technology, legislation will not move as fast as tech development. We’re seeing automation on an unprecedented scale right now. Automation can only occur when there is a clear task with a specific objective. For example, an algorithm that drives high frequency trades on the stock market, will likely operate with the sole objective of maximizing profit, and will therefore not consider externalities. This becomes highly problematic with widespread adoption of automation.

  2. Hype. There is a tremendous disconnect between how researchers view AI, and how the public, or investors for that matter, view it. This is the type of disconnect that can lead to investment bubbles in the market. I think the primary disconnect is on the timeline. If we all consider the implications of what we’re building on a 10-15 year timeline, we’re pretty much on the same page. Anything earlier than that, and the public may be disappointed with what AI actually delivers.

Tamara: How do you see your products/services evolving going forward?

Craig: Sport is an exaggerated version of the real world… kind of like the perfect testbed for technologies that will exist in the future. We are tracking and analyzing interactions between people who each have numbers on their backs, running on a field with measured lines. They have teammates, opponents, a strategy, and clearly defined tactics. We’re effectively building tech in a lab. I see what we’re doing as being the building blocks for technologies that will tackle some of the greatest challenges we face on the planet today.

Tamara: What is your favorite AI movie and why?

Craig: I work 12-18 hour days and have a young family. What’s a movie?

Tamara: What type of advice would you give my readers about AI?

Craig: Don’t believe the hype. There is a lot of crap out there.

Tamara: How does AI, particularly your product/service, bring goodness to the world? Can you explain how you help people?

Craig: Sport is a cool application that is a lot of fun, and if I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid, I have to admit that “we help teams and fans have more fun” is about where our current application stops. That said, we have 8 full-time PhDs that have built 6 patented technologies in 2 years. Sport is our starting point. If we consider the future applications of what we’re building, the idea of applying complex models that don’t just measure, but that truly understand human interaction, will enable solutions to some of the big challenges we are facing today. There are challenges like; climate change, wealth inequality, global food security, and the list goes on.

Tamara: What would be the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you during your company’s evolution?

Craig: There are far too many to write here. As a general, ongoing theme, trying to explain AI to NHL coaches who aren’t concerned with what is behind their product is always a hilariously futile exercise.

Tamara: What are the 3-5 things that most excite you about AI? Why? (industry specific)

Craig: “Huge challenges globally.” “Huge opportunities to build new tools.” Those two statements make me optimistic about our future on this planet.

Tamara: What are the 3-5 things worry you about AI? Why? (industry specific)

Craig: Greed, narrow mindedness in building new tools. We need to take a serious look at the long term implications of what we’re building, and build accordingly. We cannot build powerful tools with the sole purpose of making more money. Doing so will only result in disaster.

Tamara: Over the next three years, name at least one thing that we can expect in the future related to AI?

Craig: AI will be cheaper, be more widely available, and become embedded into more of the products and services we use daily. Also, there will be more hype.

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