Mums the Word

Warm sunny afternoons in winter are surreal, while I basked in the sun, my teenager walked in with a very ‘let’s make a deal look’. Bemused, I wondered what the commercials involved would be. With a heavy voice he said, “ Mom! As much as I want to go for the FIFA World Cup this year, it will not be possible because I will be settling into college.”

I was still guessing the direction and the damages of this so-called deal he was going to propose. Meanwhile pulling up a chair he sat in front of me with his arms crossed over his chest. I sensed this was indeed a well deliberated covenant and the scope of wriggling out of it was almost negligible. This knocked out of my blissful reverie, I sat facing the harsh realities of teenage-led transactions. The fine weather did not matter any longer. This winter was going to hit hard.

Coming directly to the point he said, “Since I wouldn’t be able to go to Qatar, I’d like the next best thing, FIFA 22 Hypermotion and in its stead, I shall study well enough to get a full scholarship to the college we have already decided on.” Intrigued, I asked what Hypermotion is.

Standing tall he peered into my eyes and said, “ It is a game Mother!!!”. As I watched him walk away after I negotiated “time to think”, I immediately asked Alexa what Hypermotion was and with a calm voice she replied, “Hypermotion is an AI-based technology. It combines machine learning with 11v11 motion capture…..” I was all ears with enthusiasm especially since it resonated with my work at Magnifi. Hypermotion implied that the player manoeuvres during a match are now more realistic than ever before but on next-gen consoles. The technology provides the best footballing experience ever. Sure that is smart, I thought, but what about it?

Unsatisfied, I began my quest to learn more about it. Let me clarify, it is an understatement that it is a GenNext technology with AI and ML playing superhero roles. EA- for Electronic Arts captures professional players and their in-game idiosyncrasies in real 11 vs 11 game backdrops with each player wearing the uber Xsen suit. It results in an incomparable volume of high-quality real human movement data powered on how both the player and the teams move across FIFA 22. It is beyond fantasy for a soccer buff, I reckoned. The most interesting part is that the ML algorithm is mastered with 8.7 million advanced match capture that is used to create new animations in real-time with candid verismo.

The more I read the more it tickled my curious grey cells so I decided to bring this to my go-to tech person – our AI engineer, Vivek. I dialled his number and bombarded him with a string of questions. Patiently, he explained that it is the latest tactical realism that is powered by the AI algorithm in the newfangled consoles that gave the players a better understanding of the game of football and movement.

The players are empowered with visions of the surroundings and the ability to make six times more decisions per second which helps them tackle better. The rewritten defensive AI was endowed with strategic abilities to move across vacant positions. The ML- Flow machine learning algorithm actually creates new animations in real-time, extending the scope to the players to holster up their posture, stride and momentum for better strikes. It was amazing to learn that it was mastered from the Advanced 11v11 Match Capture based on 8.7 million frames.

The FIFA 22 Hypermotion is enabled with two-player interaction that is synced with player animations, superior responsiveness and ultra-realism during the game with precise outcomes. Apparently, the extended two-touch animations make the ball more real and nimble with great lithe with better strength in shielding situations.

The Xsens suits are equipped with sensors that work with precision in unanimous backdrops that capture full-body motion. Strangely my thoughts wandered to the Ironman Mark Armour, and I wondered if it would make me feel like Pepper Pot in her Rescue Armour. Being enlightened about Hypermotion, I felt cheated for not having been born as Gen Z. However it wouldn’t be a bad idea if I treated myself to the FIFA 22 Hypermotion, after all, mums deserve the best. The setting sun still felt warm and the childlike exuberance demanded an adult-like strong coffee, as I braced for the negotiations I knew were awaiting me at the dinner table.

India Unfurling at the Commonwealth Games

Being an ardent sports follower, I was glued to the Tour De France that started in Copenhagen, Denmark on the 1st of July and ended at the Champs-Élysées, Paris on the 24th of July 2022, with Jonas Vingegaard winning the men’s title. Taking a little respite from work is a good thing, my prudent mind advised. And I finally succumbed to my inner voice, by turning the television on to watch the Commonwealth Games. Savita Punia was leading the women’s Indian hockey team in the semi-finals against Australia. Despite the pressure, the girls in blue were on fire, putting my work aside I watched young Lalremsiami and Sangeeta Kumari exploit the Australian backline for the second penalty corner, the boss girls gave a tough fight to the Australian opponents. The Aussie girls stormed into the finals by scoring three goals against the Indians and the superwoman Jocelyn Bartram who managed to save the shoot-out. 

India unfurling at the Commonwealth Games

A contingent of 322 members participated in the Commonwealth Games for the 18th time with 72 nations participating in Birmingham and for the first time, women’s cricket was introduced in the games. While scrolling through the short recap videos of the entire game, I knew I was going to spend a good amount of time gloating about the Indian medal tally. I watched the highlights of lawn bowling – a sport I hitherto didn’t know existed. Four women; Lovely Choubey, 42, who led, was a long jumper in her earlier days and shifted to lawn bowl after being encouraged by her coaches, Pinki Singh, 41 a former cricketer and currently a physical education teacher was second, Nayanmoni Saikia, 33 from Assam, was a national heavyweight champion until injuries plagued her went in third displayed quite a panache, finally, the skipper Rupa Rani Tirkey, a former kabbadi player hailing from Ranchi finished the game with fine distinction. The Bharat Mata ki Jai chants gave me frisson as the spectators stood up to the National Anthem when the women bagged the gold. 

The twenty-year-old Achinta Sheuli, born to a low-income family in Bengal worked his way through despite adversities with determination and perseverance bagging gold in Men’s 73 kgs heavy weightlifting. The wrestling contingent performed exceptionally well winning 6 medals. The Para-athlete Bhavina Patel clinched a Gold in table tennis. Saurav Ghosal made history in squash by winning a medal for India, ranking at World 15, he domineered against England’s Willstrop right from the start, it was indeed an emotional moment and I could share his myriad emotions for the perseverance he had put in a sport that was not popular in India would perhaps prompt youth to take up squash.

Satwik and Chirag crushed their opponent through to the quarter-finals in doubles badminton. They displayed fire, poise, and dominance in the game. Their performance took India to the fifth position in the medal tally. The penultimate day promises some adrenal rush with the boxing finals featuring Nitu and Amit Panghal. The Women in Blue have beaten England in their home ground to have a final faceoff with the Aussie women. PV Sindhu heads into the semifinals and The TT duo Sharath and Sathiyan fight for gold in the men’s doubles final. 

Technology as the hope to better sports management

However, the categories in the games that have the maximum events expanding the scope of winning medals are swimming and gymnastics. Sadly India is fledging in both categories while never making it to other categories like rowing, rugby, football, basketball, volleyball, cycling, beach volleyball, and so many others. Technology is the hope for such sports, the meteoric innovations could be the dawn for millions of athletes across the globe that would not just aid in better facilities but also broaden the scope of improvement. Anurag Thakur, The Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports in India recently quoted: ‘We’re changing the sporting ecosystem to make it conducive for our sportspersons’ The marriage of technology and sports has broadened both the scope of play and improvements in training quality. The techno-sports tools of digital mapping, data analytics, machine intelligence, and immersive viewing are even spilling out to better sports management. Alongside the content explosion in various social media platforms has aided in awareness, giving traction to the brand value of a player. The citizens are aiding in better scouting of talents from previously untapped places. Additionally AI teams are now using technology to track an athlete’s training, and identify patterns and/or strengths and weaknesses while preparing for games. 

A new dawn awaits the sports horizon …

It gives me hope that a new dawn awaits the sports horizon. Technology and training would help athletes across the country find a breakthrough in unchartered territory. On day 10 as Nikhat Zareena and PV Sindhu took India to the 4th position after bagging gold for boxing and badminton singles, my heart was beaming with joy, as the Indian flag went up and the national anthem was played. Standing up I sang with pride and patriotism ‘Bharat Bhagya Vidhata’ which precisely means, “the dispenser of the destiny of India!” A week before India celebrates her 75th year of independence the young men and women of her country rise in glory.