Basketball, Martial Arts, Soccer, Global

Take HEED: Mati Kochavi on the AI platform that could change sports storytelling

HEED co-founder Mati Kohavi tells SportsPro how the platform is taking fan engagement to the next level.

by Tom Bassam
Take HEED: Mati Kochavi on the AI platform that could change sports storytelling

HEED is a new fan engagement platform launched by AGT International founder Mati Kochavi and Ari Emanuel, WME-IMG co-chief executive, designed to deliver real-time stories, unique insights and visualisations of live events.

Previously utilised in the world of fashion, last year HEED secured its highest-profile sports partnership to date when it signed a deal with mixed martial arts giant the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Now, it is planning to bring its advanced analytics and artificial intelligence technology to a wider sporting market.

Powered by venue and audience data, HEED tracks emotional, physical and behavioural patterns to share key live moments through automated content and video.

Ahead of his appearance at SportsPro Live, HEED co-founder Kohavi talks about the platform he hopes can change the in-home and in-venue fan experience.

What is HEED and how does it work?

HEED is based on IOT [Internet of Things] technology and AI [artificial intelligence]. Basically, the concept is a platform of technology that can look at live events in real time and understand what is happening in real time, in a way that a human can understand the event, but in a much bigger way.

It allows users to understand the real, interesting insights of the game or the event and not just the obvious things we can see with our eyes. It’s more about the insights that relate to the physical, behavioural or emotions of the game - not only on the level of the players but also the aspects of the referee, the audience, the bench, the coach. It looks at the game from all those directions and analyses it.

The idea is that when something interesting is happening and is relevant for the audience or fan, the system will know it’s an interesting insight in real time, package it and send it to the consumer.

The notification can come in many different ways, like a normal notification, sometimes an avatar or a sophisticated visual.

Mati Kohavi shows off some of the insights HEED can provide (Pic: ATG/Twitter)

Who is it for?

We’re going to have two types of users. One is the fan who is going to watch the whole 90 minutes of the soccer game. He will use HEED as a second screen because the insights are going to be really interesting for him.

Or it will be the new type of fan who doesn’t watch the full UFC fight, the 90-minute soccer game or the two-hour basketball game, but they say, ‘I want to be connected, I want to know what’s happening and I want it in real time to bring me the most interesting points or things that are happening.’

So if the coach of my favourite team or the coach of the team that I hate is really losing it, or is getting anxious and we can identify it, we’re going tell you.

Or if a UFC fighter makes a punch we can tell you how strong the punch was, if the other fighter is used to that level of punch, what is the impact on the fighter of the punch and what kind of energy is he left with after the punch. So you get all this information that you today just can’t see.

How does it work?

We are using sensorial data that is conditioned on broadcasting rights but can be anything from video and audio to radar. It’s sophisticated data that we collect during the event. We don’t build the sensors, we take the sensors of third parties. What we are doing is putting analytics and very smart AI behind it. We collect data, analyse it in real time and put on top of it an AI that asks questions: what’s interesting? What’s different? How did it affect the athlete? The bench? How does the audience feel about it?

In UFC, the commissioner gave us permission to put sensors that we developed in the gloves - a case where we put our own sensors, but usually we use third party sensors.

What is very important is that we usually correlate this live data with other data that we collect. So it’s not just the GPS of the player, I’m going to correlate it with I see from the coach, how the fans are reacting to it or how the bench is reacting to it. And then I can say: ‘What does this mean right now?’

The context is critical. If I have a wearable that is saying my heart rate is 180, is this because I ran a marathon or I’m really sick? So with the AI, we’re saying: ‘What is our interpretation of this [data]?’ And it’s because we collect more data that we reach the context.

What other areas are you exploring with this technology?

In the last 12 months we have partnered with the UFC and the Euroleague Basketball, all 16 teams in the Euroleague. We’re actually going to launch our final product at the EuroLeague final four in May. We also have the bull riding in the US, over there we’re actually producing an AI robot to become a judge - I don’t think that has been done before in any other sport.

We are closing on deals with some very significant soccer teams in Europe - top-notch soccer teams. We’re going to be announcing those in the next month. We’re talking with major leagues in the US, so you’re going to find us working most of the leagues in the next 12 months.

Could this be used in officiating sport?

I know in some of the sports, like boxing, they have been talking with us about using this technology to understand the damage to the fighter and it can also be for judging. These are decisions for the leagues and the clubs. We just offer technology.

Our main aim is to be the Spotify of live events. The way we see ourselves is two years from today, anyone who cares about live events, not only sports but concerts or whatever, they are going to have their own robot in the events they care about. This robot is going to look for the moments [the consumer] cares about, if something interesting the robot will call the consumer on HEED and say, ‘Hey, buddy. This is happening. You should definitely watch, it’s really interesting.’

So your phone is going to be in your pocket and HEED is going to know the events you care about and look at those events and when something interesting is coming it will pop up and say, ‘Go and watch it.’ Watching it might be going to the network to watch, because we might not bring you the access to that game, but basically we’ll be monitoring and detect when something interesting is happening and tell you to watch it.

Where does this fit into the sports industry currently?

We are not creating a new trend, the trend is already there. People don’t watch sport in the same way that they used to but they want to be connected. We’re just trying to adapt to it and bring live events that way because today live events don’t come in that way.

Today they come in a very simplistic way: the score, things that are obvious but the things that make the game the game and all the excitement I miss because no one is able to identify them in real time and send them [to me] in an interesting way.

You can hear Mati Kohavi speaking at SportsPro Live, which is taking place at ExCel London from 11-12 April, more information here