“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war”Norman Schwarzkopf
Deliberate practice differentiates great from the good. Be it Michael Jordan or Rafael Nadal or Gary Kasparov, what makes them exceptional is the time they have put in to hone their skills. Moreover, practise is also a game of strategy and analysis (Think Moneyball and Sabermetrics).
Stupa Sports Analytics, founded by former Table Tennis player Deepak Malik and partner Megha Gambhir, is leveraging emerging technologies to give players the edge. Though limited to Table Tennis for now, the company has plans to expand to other sports soon. Stupa Analytics has entered an agreement with International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) to provide performance analytics to Table Tennis professionals in 226 countries.
Analytics India Magazine caught up with co-founder Megha Gambhir to understand more about Stupa Analytics and how technology is changing sports.
AIM: What’s the origin story of Stupa Sports Analytics?
Megha Gambhir: The idea behind bringing such a solution was not spontaneous. Deepak Malik, co-founder of Stupa, also my life partner, has been an avid Table Tennis fan and a player for more than two decades. He has played at the national level and won several medals. He has also coached the Indian National Table Tennis team and other national and international athletes. During his days as a coach, Deepak struggled to find a tool to ease his work of analysing players’ performance and tracking it. Since I come from an extensive technology background & Deepak being an avid tech enthusiast, our ideas together took the shape of Stupa that solves the problem of many coaches and players.
I feel, keeping up with the time is important. Everything is being sped up, we need more in less time & sport is not an exception. And technology can definitely make it possible & that is why we’re here. Video Analytics can generate a lot of exhaustive and intense data that an athlete can actually visualise and track the different stages of their performance.
AIM: Tell us about Stupa Sports Analytics’ services.
Megha Gambhir: Stupa is working on artificial intelligence-enabled ball tracking and video analytics technology from low-end devices like a mobile camera. We initially started with Table Tennis and now plan to expand into other individual and flat surface sports like badminton, squash, lawn tennis and others. It harnesses the power of data analytics to analyse athlete’s technical & tactical performance, derives trends and patterns from historic data and provides a detailed analysis of the game, their fitness, techniques and tactics. It also identifies hidden anomalies and all the data-driven insights.
The real-time analysis can be done simply by setting up the mobile device on a tripod and recording from the Stupa application that detects the table, players and all the action that’s happening on the table. We have serves, receive, heat maps, ball speed, hand type analysis, video highlights and much more. All these services are possible through a mobile phone, so it doesn’t require any expensive or hefty camera setup. Even the players at the grass-root level can enjoy the analysis experience.
AIM: How does your analysis help players/coaches?
Megha Gambhir: The data generated from our solution is very precise, which ultimately helps the coaches redefine and optimise their athletes’ training patterns. The training can be done in a more specific way and is result-oriented. With the integration of our technology into an athlete’s training regime, one can track the daily growth and work on specificities to show more results in less time.
Pre-match preparation also becomes better! Once you study your and your opponent data, the tactical aspect is mobilised and one can expect better results. It’s like a revision of your performance to memorise the key bullets that can be eventually implemented in a match.
AIM: What are the various R&D projects afoot at Stupa?
At the moment, there are a lot of curtain openers we have on our side. Apart from video analytics and data science, the extension of the core AI model to multiple other segments is underway. We are also working on high-speed action recognition and rapid tracking of the ball which is required for this sport.
AIM: Tell us about your major projects/collaborations.
Megha Gambhir: In just over a period of one year, we’re proud to be recognised globally. Moreover, it feels great to know that the Table Tennis community understands and values the importance of data analytics as a performance enhancer. Our tie-ups include the parent body ITTF, top federations like Hungarian Table Tennis Association, Brazilian Table Tennis Federation (para-team), Portugal Table Tennis, Sweden Table Tennis.
AIM: What are your long term plans?
Megha Gambhir: We are a product-focused group that is re-imagining, re-designing, and re-engineering AI/ML for sports analytics using mobile cameras or other low-end devices. We plan to extend our technology to multiple other sports in the next few years and further create a holistic platform covering different nuances of the sport – be it coaching, education, analysis, fitness or equipment. The platform will help players and coaches at all levels to get connected and get all the services in one place.
Further, we also plan to extend our core AI solution to broadcasting and streaming to have a better viewing experience for fans and players. This is required in multiple sports for improving and enriching the viewers’ experience.
AIM: What role does AI/ML/analytics play in sports?
Megha Gambhir: Cutting edge technologies like AI and Machine learning are being adopted to analyse better, optimise and organise every aspect in the field of sports. AI is being used extensively for tracking ball and player dynamics in ball sports and in other fitness-centric sports for tracking posture. Machine learning is for tracking improvements over time and making recommendations through machine learning models. Moreover, companies are using AI in conjunction with IoT devices, leading to more in-depth analysis and data.
AIM: How will AI change sports?
Megha Gambhir: AI will play a very significant role in the future – it will be used in coaching and performance improvement, in tracking dynamics of player matches, and identifying opportunities for improvement. Long term data trends will also be analysed through AI. AI will also be used for robotics in a major way to develop technologies to help players to practice alone.
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I am a journalist with a postgraduate degree in computer network engineering. When not reading or writing, one can find me doodling away to my heart’s content.