Being a Giant’s fan, I am VERY excited for this Sunday – the rematch between the arrogant New England Patriots and the humble New York Giants. Football is more than brut strength, it is strategy. The intelligence of each play boggles not just the human mind, but a robot’s too.
Researchers at Oregon State University are using football as a means to teach machines the learning process. Leveraging their mensa-like minds, computers have been set up to analyze the video feed of OSU’s Beavers in order to learn the game of football and design future plays through manipulating players during simulations. Yes, one day soon we may see a robot in a NFL jersey calling the shots as the new offensive/defensive coordinator. According to Alan Fern of OSU, “football actually makes a pretty good test bed, because it’s much more complicated than you might think both visually and strategically… this makes it quite analogous to other potential applications.” Hmmm, does Fern have the Superbowl dreams in mind…
The learning process can be broken down into two key parts – the source and the target. The source is the environment that a human or machine receives input, while the target is the output. Essentially, through transferring data into the analytical mind, the computer generates tasks that aim at problem-solving the target through obstacles (like throwing a pass into the end zone before being sacked). This requires “the system to actively retrieve, map, or otherwise infer relationships and similarities among knowledge components.”
While a typical NFL coach has over 200 plays in his their arsenal, OSU’s research is up to twenty plays (so maybe they are ready for JV). Early results are encouraging with quick AI adjustments during game play, but the brain power of a high school quarterback who can react on the fly still alludes the OSU machine. The promise of this research opens the door to off-season pursuits, including: medicine, diagnostic studies, air travel, disaster scenarios, and so much more. Until then, we are left to marvel at not only the players this Sunday, but Tom Coughlin brilliance in bringing NY another victory – GO BLUE!