Second Spectrum is a machine learning company that has quietly helped the NBA to live the fast, complex three-point experience it has become today. The company uses cameras to track each game and algorithms to analyze each action in the field. With partnerships with just about every team in the NBA, the company provides analysis that has identified the inefficiencies of the game and defined how the teams play.
While one could imagine that Second Spectrum covers every inch of the court with cameras, the company's CEO, Rajiv Maheswaran, told Engadget: "The secret is really in the software." The company has eight to ten cameras in the rafters of each arena of the NBA. Most follow up work is done using computer vision algorithms and technologies.
"What we did is automate the identification of things like pick and roll, pick and roll defense, off-ball screens," Maheswaran said. "We have AI generated identification of all these complex actions in court." This tracking information is transformed into contextual data. It can calculate the probability that a player scores or grab a rebound, its opening and so much more.
Second Spectrum shares much of this information with the teams in a database format, but the company has also turned it into visualizations that can be overlaid on top of the action. This began in part in partnership with the Los Angeles Clippers and resulted in the development of CourtVision – an enriched experience that takes relevant information and turns it into a real-time visual overlay.
"Teams said," We would like to present the information to our players and coaches in this way, "said Maheswaran," At the end of the day, the teams watch a lot of videos and the players are watching a lot. 'increase is a way to make it more attractive, but also more informative.'
The CourtVision visuals used by the Clippers will be featured on ESPN3 as Full Court Press and will provide home viewers with many ways to watch the game according to their interests.
First there is the coach mode, which draws game diagrams as they develop in the field. It will also show when players are open, identify defense switches, among other priority areas. "There are a lot of things that your look might not catch if you are still watching the ball.The players have interesting offside screens and make some interesting actions," Maheswaran said. "Animations and graphics direct you to that."
For those interested in understanding the decision-making that takes place in the field, there is the player mode. It shows the likelihood that a player scores at one point and helps to highlight good moves, bad moves and how teams take advantage of certain opportunities. This is an immediate response to the debates of sports bars. "Sometimes you have arguments if a player has to shoot or succeed and the player mode responds directly to these questions," said Maheswaran.
Finally, for casual fans, there is the Mascot mode, a NBA Jampresentation of style of the game. The three pointers are greeted by a "3" inflamed on the screen, the dunks are illustrated by lightning. Maheswaran called it a celebration of this sport.
Part of the increased experience of Second Spectrum has already been used during broadcasts, but usually during replay and highlights. The game Bucks-Lakers on ESPN3 will be the first time the technology will be exhibited in real time during a full broadcast and will mark the beginning of a path that, according to Maheswaran, will allow viewers to experience fully customized broadcast experiences.
Maheswaran said that getting to this point was "quite difficult" but stated that Full Court Press's latency is indistinguishable from that of other streaming services. Achieving this goal is a major goal for Second Spectrum as it opens up many opportunities. "Once we got here, we did it," said the company's CEO. "From now on, the situation will improve.The design will improve, the latency will improve, the number of options will improve."