Former Indian national cricket team captain Anil Kumble founded technology startup, Spektacom Technologies, and Microsoft Corp have announced the introduction of the ‘Power Bat’, which provides players, coaches, commentators, fans and viewers with a new and unique way to engage with the sport and help improve their game — all powered by the Microsoft Azure cloud platform using AI and Internet of Things (IoT) services.
Microsoft has been working closely with Anil Kumble, who is an engineer by education, and his startup Spektacom to incubate and launch the product, as part of its ScaleUp program.
The ‘Power Bat’ carries a tiny sticker-chip, the size of a credit card and weighing less than 5 grams. The data from the sticker-chip will be fed into a stump box, and captured and processed using Microsoft’s Azure Sphere to be available to the broadcaster of the match real time and for the player to mull over later.
The data will help analyse shots and break them into measurable parameters such as quality (of the shot), swing (of the bat), power, and twist. It will help batsmen, to give an example, find out how often they hit the ball from the “sweet spot”.
Kumble’s start-up Spektacom Technologies has already experimented with the concept in the Tamil Nadu Premier League on a limited basis and is now ready to scale up through broadcast partner Star Sports.
The quality of the shot is calculated in percentages, the speed of bat in kmph, the power in specs while the twist happens in degrees. In a live demonstration of the bat’s abilities at a Star Sports studio in Mumbai on Thursday, data from a shot showed up on screens in a few seconds.
While the broadcaster would have access to this sticker initially for their commentators to then analyse a batsman during a match, the technology would later be available commercially for anyone to buy the sticker, download an app and access their data. Kumble added that the gadget—which charges in 90 minutes and lasts two days on it—would be affordable.
Star India, the leading cricket broadcaster in India, has used the technology successfully in recent series to provide real-time statistics and insights straight off the oval.
“We’re excited to be a part of the work Spektacom and Star India are doing to enhance the cricket experience for fans, players and coaches. We’ve already seen the impact that connected devices have had in other industries, and we believe that with the advancements in our AI and cloud services, this is just the beginning of what’s possible for not only cricket, but all sports,” said Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President, Microsoft.
Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Star India, said, “Star India has always strived to redefine and elevate experiences for sports fans. From Multi-language feeds and Select Dugout to VR and Watch n’ Play, the coverage of Vivo IPL demonstrates our commitment toward creating new benchmarks in how technology is deployed to deepen fan engagement. The Power Bat promises to be another step in the same direction, and we look forward to the partnership with Anil Kumble (Spektacom) and Microsoft in bringing it to our broadcasts.”
Kumble commented, “Our vision is to bring sports closer to fans through interesting ways of engagement using real-time sports analytics. At the same time, it is important that the technologies used are seamless and do not disrupt the game or obstruct the players. With Microsoft, we have been able to create a secure and effective solution, and with Star India, we have a partner that can stimulate and excite fan engagement.”
The Power Bat is a unique concept whereby a lightweight, Azure Sphere-powered sticker is stuck on the shoulder of the bat — a form factor that is completely unobtrusive. In a live match, as soon as the batsman hits the ball, data on different parameters (speed on impact, twist on impact and quality of the shot — percentage proximity of the ball’s contact to the sweet spot of the willow) are captured in a new unit of measurement titled Power Speks. Microsoft’s Azure Sphere ensures that the data is securely captured and processed. Using advanced analytics and AI services on Azure, real-time insights are captured through the stump box and displayed via the broadcaster. During practice or coaching, the same data can be viewed through a mobile app.
Although the technology introduced by Spektacom has its first use case in cricket, for Microsoft, Anil Kumble and Star India, this is the first of many sports where it can be used. Microsoft believes in leveraging its technology and its people to help sports teams and organisations solve their toughest challenges. By leveraging the company’s intelligent cloud and productivity solutions, sports organisations worldwide are connecting with fans, optimising team and player performance, and managing their operations in new, innovative ways.