Silicon Collar excerpt: Golden State Warriors

Silicon Collar looks at machines and humans at work in over 50 settings across industries and countries. On this blog I will excerpt many of those settings over the next few weeks. On Deal Architect I will excerpt more of the policy parts of the book.

“For Kirk Lacob, Assistant General Manager of the team, part of his job is to scout and introduce technologies infused with rich data to help make his players more competitive. It’s a version of automation in the sports world. It’s also leading to jokes as to whether Curry is a 3-point shooting robot.

In an interview, Lacob told me, “The reality is that we can’t influence results completely—and we are a results business. But if we can push and pull the probabilities, we can hope to have a better outcome.” That’s a pretty modest statement about a team which won the 2015 NBA championship and almost repeated that achievement in 2016.

In order to tweak those probabilities, NBA teams have access to data from SportVU, a camera system hung from the rafters in sports arenas that collects data on everything throughout a game in x, y, and z planes.

With 24 frames in a single second, you end up with about 1.3 million rows in a CSV file and with that we have truly quantified the game of basketball. It was originally an Israeli missile tracking technology that was retrofitted to track a basketball.”

“ One technology we’ve looked at tracks muscle activity using an EKG reading directly from sensors on the body. It’s made by a start-up called Athos which produces compression, sweat-wicking fabric with trackers that send information via Bluetooth to mobile devices. The clothing can monitor electromyography, measure muscle activity, heart rate, and other metrics.

They figured out a way to do that wirelessly so it’s noninvasive. This should hopefully give us a much more accurate reading of what’s going on with the player’s body. Our goal is to eventually look at a fatigue bar, like in a video game, and observe, ‘You know, his left quad is firing at 70%. Well, with our baseline, he should be firing at 80% at this point of the game. Something may be wrong. Let’s get him out of there.’ It doesn’t mean he’s necessarily hurt, but he could be on the way to getting hurt. Sometimes it could be an injury that we haven’t yet sniffed out. This is all about allowing us to have more information, to make better decisions and increase our probabilities.”

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