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Are AI Coaches the Future? Will Bill Belichick Be Replaced By AI? Here's How Global Digitization is Transforming Sports The global sports technology market has seen huge investments in the past couple of years, with a record-setting $1.4 billion invested into sports tech in 2020. How will this financial influx change sports and entertainment?

By Eugene Lisovskiy Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Web2, Web3 and AI have allowed sports to move into a more digital space, and now they are completely changing how fans, athletes and coaches enjoy it.

While the industry was already on a path toward more sophisticated tech, the isolation of the pandemic accelerated the need for better data collection and analysis tools for athletes and coaches. Now, sports tech has evolved far beyond simple wearables, utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) for newer, better ways to play, practice and enjoy sports.

Enter the metaverse: from practice to gameday, we'll be playing online

We can divide sports into four main categories: learn, play, watch and wear.

Traditionally, learning comes from either one-on-one training sessions with a coach, mentor or instructor or through team practices. Those who don't have access to teams or pickup games often hone their skills at home or in a community center gym, using whatever tools they have available.

Playing encompasses everything from casual pickup games with neighborhood friends to amateur and professional leagues. The "watch" and "wear" categories apply to athletes and fans. Here, we're talking about going to sporting events, watching live streams, playing in fantasy leagues, wearing team jerseys and purchasing sports equipment.

Related: 8 Industries Being Disrupted by Virtual Reality

In all four categories, a massive shift toward digitization is happening thanks to AR and VR technology, plus the growing popularity of AI and Web3.

Now, athletes can train better with AI coaches. Apps like Level Up utilize ChatGPT to create helpful, accessible AI coaching, and artificial intelligence analytics tools like Athlete's AI provide better performance analysis for more effective training.

In addition, the evolution and growth of the metaverse are opening up new possibilities for a global athletic community that can play and compete together from anywhere in the world. It is also paving the way for brand-new sporting event experiences like future metaverse broadcasts, AR minigames in-stadium and, hopefully, immersive 3D viewing packages.

Related: Why Apple is Primed to Take a Bite Out of Live Sports

Better AI means better athletes

Professional coaches and leagues have been using AI and ML to assist with training for years. However, the broader availability of AI tech means that amateur athletes and school-level coaches and trainers can leverage this technology to sharpen their practices and analyze player performance data even more effectively.

In particular, augmented reality is an exciting new tool from which athletes can benefit considerably. For example, the ability to overlay objects (such as computer-generated players) onto a real-world court or field can help players who have to train alone.

Other AR applications allow data to be incorporated into a real-world environment or pre-recorded videos so players and trainers can better understand play styles, movement patterns and potential mistakes in real time.

For amateur leagues and coaches, VR and AR overlays can be used to study opposing teams' footage to plan better defensive strategies before game day.

Related: How Big-Name Sneaker Brands Are Racing Into the Metaverse

Global digitization means global competition for amateur players

In today's world, younger generations have all grown up with smartphones and sophisticated technology since before they could walk. This means they are totally connected to the internet, and things like social validation and "leveling up" are essential parts of their lives.

Rather than trying to change this, the digital shift helps society lean into these near-universal traits. Now, apps and communities exist globally so that people anywhere in the world can connect by playing or watching their favorite sports.

Athletes can make progress posts or participate in competitive leaderboards and receive likes, comments and validation from other athletes. Fans can participate in group watch parties or live streams no matter where they live.

This level of social validation is a critical component of the growth and evolution of the global sports community.

Sports fans are also a vital part of the industry, and AR is already transforming how fans engage with their favorite sports. Most significant sports broadcasts are already embedding 3D graphics and using real-time AR overlays to provide better commentary and game analysis.

Finally, fantasy sports have gained major traction recently, especially during the lockdown. Fantasy sports apps have already begun incorporating augmented reality to create more exciting experiences. The most popular company for this is AR Sports, which has a patented interactive experience reminiscent of other games like Pokemon Go.

Related: Qatar-Based Sponix Tech Is Transforming How People Engage With Largescale Sporting Events

Digital transformation helps sports tech unlock new and exciting achievements

Web3 may still be in its earliest stages of development, but it is already expanding our minds and stretching the bounds of what we believed was possible.

In sports tech, the uses for AI, ML and Web3 technologies like blockchain and the metaverse are nearly limitless. Whether you are an avid sports fan, an amateur player or a professional hopeful, team sports are becoming more digital and exciting than ever.

Eugene Lisovskiy

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Level Up Basketball Training App, ex-CEO of MAPS.ME

3 x founder, 2 exits, growth hacker, engineer. Ex-CEO of MAPS.ME (150M users), ex-CMO of LITRES.com (25M users).

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