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SYFY WIRE Technology

English soccer team hires predictive AI to coach a game. Yes, really.

By Jacob Oller
AI Soccer Coach

With high-level mathematics saturating number-driven industries as diverse as video game high scores and Oscar predictions (and does anyone else remember Moneyball?), it was only a matter of time before the robots started taking the lead in these competitive arenas. That’s what’s happening with one English soccer club, Isthmian League Premier Division’s Wingate & Finchley FC, which has recently named an AI as its coach.

AI is already able to give feedback to aspiring basketball all-stars and keep top tennis players on their game, but what about being a head coach of a team? That’s what Wingate & Finchley FC’s collaboration with The Big Bang Fair (a UK celebration of young people in STEM), is looking to find out.

According to a release, this coach comes from the AI experts at GreenShoot Labs and will utilize a “reasoning engine to determine the best formation and style of play against a given opponent.” Then, taking that data, it will learn from the games and become better and better at dealing out specific tactics mapped to specific opponents.

With an Alexa-like voice interface (it uses an Amazon Echo), the coaching AI uses the answers from a few questions in order to determine the best approach to a game.

Take a look:

Using a model programmed with rules relating to the effectiveness of different soccer tactics, the AI takes data like the “fitness levels, motivation, and types of players to strongest areas on the pitch” from its team while assessing “the strengths, weaknesses, and the typical player formation” of their opponents to generate a recommendation. Taking real-time scores into account, it can also dictate when replacements or a style change should be made.

The team will debut the newest member of their coaching staff when they play Brighton’s Whitehawk FC on Feb. 9 — marking the first time an AI coach has led an English soccer team.