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Go For It On Fourth Down? Ask Coach Watson

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the falling-back-on-the-old-destroy-all-humans-play dept.

AI 241

jbrodkin writes "If humans can't beat a computer at 'Jeopardy!' why should we trust them to make the right call on fourth down in the Super Bowl? That was the fundamental question asked by some researchers at the recent MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. With thousands of variables to consider on the basketball court or other fields of play, it only makes sense to let computers handle questions of strategy, says Tarek Kamil, whose company built a chip-containing basketball which takes 6,000 measurements per second. 'Fifty years from now, we're going to laugh about how we used to give coaches this much responsibility,' he says."

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Fourth and Inches (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410888)

Go shotgun, if they bunch up on the line to stop the run you can fling it out to the sides for a run or pass.

I never punt in video game football.

Impact of video games (5, Interesting)

crow (16139) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411280)

That comment is far more insightful than you probably meant for it to be. The current generation of coaches learned to coach without computers. In a few years, the next generation will include people like you that have also played video game versions. With the accuracy of video game simulations improving all the time, more coaches will trust the instincts that they've learned are reliable in the video games, and the typical coaching strategy will change.

Take it a step further (which some NFL team will), and get a good video game (i.e., simulation) that includes the stats on all the players on both the home and opposing teams, and run lots of plays in the week before the game to see which ones tend to work better than usual with the expected lineups.

Baseball has long been a numbers game, primarily because so much of the game is a matter of batter vs. pitcher, so it's relatively easy to quantify. It's just a matter of time before other sports follow.

Re:Impact of video games (2)

Sparhawk2k (680674) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411450)

Sample size also has a lot to do with why baseball is such a game of numbers. Even with 600 at bats and thousands of pitches per player it can still take a couple years to collect enough reliable data to make predictions for the future. I don't follow a lot of other sports but I have noticed that in many the quantifiable actions take place less often per person per year.

Re:Impact of video games (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411472)

As I played more and more NCAA and Madden on Xbox 360 I've noticed how successful one can be at 4th down conversions in game and it's bothered me that they don't do it more. In my mind, if you can sim it, you can really do it.

Back in Super Nintendo, PS2 and Gamecube you could really exploit the computer, but now the games are getting alot better, I'd not be surprised if by 2020 the video game won't perfectly simulate the final score of the Super Bowl.

Re:Impact of video games (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411536)

Regression analysis? In your sports team? It might be more common than you think.

Re:Impact of video games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411654)

I say take the coaches out of the game. Make the quarterbacks call the plays without someone on the sideline giving orders.

Re:Impact of video games (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411664)

I remember NPR mentioning a few months ago how training new NFL and (especially) college players has changed because of Madden.

It used to be that kids would come in knowing the basic rules, and maybe a few plays. They had to be taught lots of strategy, as their experience was really playing with friends or in high school and most kids didn't get to QB. Those who did only got to play in a handful of games, so they didn't have a lot of experience.

Now, kids come in often having played hundreds or thousands of games thanks to Madden (and other games). They know quite a bit of strategy, tactics, etc. They aren't the blank slate they used to be.

I realize this is Slashdot... (2)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410924)

But the Super Bowl and Fourth down are football things. Not basketball things.

As for sports at the upper levels, there is more involved than merely picking the correct play. You need not only the play, but the execution of it. Coaches do far more than just come up with strategy, they also, as the name implies, COACH.

Re:I realize this is Slashdot... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411282)

The article goes on to say coaches will be needed for coaching, but computers are better at play calling.

Re:I realize this is Slashdot... (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411534)

I bet you'd do as well on the field if you had a computer picking your plays and feeding Duke Nukem quips into your helmet radio.

Hey while we're there... (3, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410938)

Why should we even let humans obey the orders? Machines can do it more efficienty.

And then why do we need to do it in the physical world? It might be more interesting if there's no gravity, or higher gravity or something.

So the entertainment of the future will involve us seeing computers play video games in front of us.

Re:Hey while we're there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411058)

We already had a computer that supposedly predicted the outcome of the superbowl? Just have the computer generate the results and then we won't have to waste time actually watching the game.

Re:Hey while we're there... (1)

drainbramage (588291) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411354)

Which will give us more time for those super commercials.

Re:Hey while we're there... (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411480)

And the super half-time shows.

Re:Hey while we're there... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411648)

How are computers currently doing at simulating the cheerleaders?

Re:Hey while we're there... (1)

X-Power (1009277) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411084)

You mean the entertainment of today? A.K.A Movies?

Re:Hey while we're there... (1)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411126)

Eventually, we will just analyze everything that makes us enjoy a sporting event, and the computer will just spit out a game that we will enjoy watching, for sheer entertainment value.

Re:Hey while we're there... (2)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411254)

Eventually, we will just analyze everything that makes us enjoy a sporting event, and the computer will just spit out a game that we will enjoy watching, for sheer entertainment value.

I hope it's per user rather than what the majority votes for, otherwise 95% of the games will be a bunch of guys getting kicked in the balls.

Re:Hey while we're there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411300)

I'm smiling thinking about watching that. Kudos on a job well done

Re:Hey while we're there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411438)

The line between hockey and boxing would blur as well, and racing would be taken over by the Mythbusters.

Re:Hey while we're there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411456)

Ooh, yes please! I hope it's what the majority votes for, and not per user.

Re:Hey while we're there... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411668)

You know what I always say... if there was no demand, there would be no supply!

Re:Hey while we're there... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411284)

The real challenge will be to do it so that we can bet on the game in vegas.

Re:Hey while we're there... (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411556)

As long as it involves a shower scene with Cameron Diaz, I say go for it.

Re:Hey while we're there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411476)

Not video games. Machine needs to execute the play. It will be robot football [youtube.com]

Re:Hey while we're there... (1)

dwandy (907337) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411484)

Because sport is about human competition. There is a distinct difference between having a machine judge an outcome, or having a machine aid with planning and strategy and having a machine perform the athletic task.
Other sports (like automobile racing) have been deciding where the line is between "computer-aided" and "computer-performed" for some time now; it's only natural that other sports begin to grapple with this problem.
Ultimately there will always be a market for those that want to see how we compete against each other. So while I agree that there will be pure computer simulations in the future, I suspect they will grow boring very quickly and it will spark a renewed interest in raw unaided human competition.

Except... (1)

Rinnon (1474161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410950)

Jeopardy is not Strategy. Jeopardy is taxing the computers ability to understand reasonably complex language, and find the solution to a question. A computer has a database of answers, and there is only 1 correct one to select. Football strategy does not imply only 1 right answer. It relies on so many more things than that. All in all, a pretty ridiculous statement.

Re:Except... (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411028)

Actually if you break the environment into a large amount of variables, then its a textbook example of how AI would work.

That said, the bonus of a computer is how its able to process many things quickly, and not that it will learn faster than humans (by examples). So I'd say that if you get a coach to act in 50 games or so, he will be able to give better results than a computer who acts in 50 games. You'd need a large amount of games in order to get a difference. Now a computer could easily process thousands of games in a few minutes, so meh.

Re:Except... (1)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411114)

Answer: "attempt field goal with 10 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter on the 25 yard line with 4th down and 3 to go when down by 2 points"

Question: "what is a winning strategy?"

Seems like that fits the description of only one correct answer to select. It all depends on how you phrase the inputs and how efficient your search is.

The point is that the success of the Watson team is twofold, first, as you rightly point out, to understand complex human language. The second is to efficiently organize and search vast amounts of human knowledge. Both tasks are related, in that they are attempting to identify and classify structure in information, and, I imagine, the same team would be hugely successful at football strategy using the same underlying analytical tools.

Re:Except... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411304)

Answer: "attempt field goal with 10 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter on the 25 yard line with 4th down and 3 to go when down by 2 points"

Question: "what is a winning strategy?"

Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

Re:Except... (1)

umghhh (965931) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411562)

While we have machines getting better at understanding the gibberish humans produce we may try to get a machine to convince people to get over the gibberish in the first place. This could involve significant simplifications to our speech patterns down to say: 'yes, sir', 'no, sir', 'I do not know sir' and "I have not understood the order sir'. If we are not allowed to respond in any other way this can increase meaningful content in an average speech sample.

Re:Except... (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411446)

I remember reading the same kinds of things about another game of similar complexity that IBM built a computer to try out a few years ago. The concept that a computer could possibly beat a human at this complex, intuition-based game was considered ridiculous.

If I recall correctly, Kasparov didn't fare so well. In fact, Deep Blue figuratively kicked his ass (of the 5 games played, two were played to a draw and three were won by Deep Blue. Since then, computer power has increased to the point where any relatively modern desktop PC could accomplish the same task, and most smartphones could probably do the same.

Unless there are an infinite number of plays, it's going to be possible to find all the possible plays that could be made, prioritize them based on chances of success and desirability of outcome, and pick the one that has the best chance of achieving the desired result. That's not to say that a computer coach is ever going to win a game without a team that has some talent themselves, but it could almost certainly lead one.

A computer coach is probably not (at least in the near future) going to be able to actually COACH a team (as in, develop team rapport, hone player skills, work out player interpersonal issues, etc). Mostly because the players are not going to respond well, and the computer can't be programmed with enough information yet.

But I'd expect the Watson team could probably adapt Watson to lead an awesome game of (insert sport here) in fairly short order.

Re:Except... (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411554)

Jeopardy is not Strategy.

Gotta disagree here. Apparently the big reason Ken Jennings was able to stay on top (aside from his recall ability) was the fact that he knew exactly when to press the buzzer. If you press before Trebek finishes the question then your buzzer is disabled for a short period, so if you know exactly when to press then your more likely to increase your chances to answer.

But will anybody use it? (1)

Gr33nJ3ll0 (1367543) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410956)

Sports are rife with things that seriously improve performance, but are illegal since they don't enhance the competition of man v man, how will using a computer to do the job of the coach be any different?

Re:But will anybody use it? (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411266)

They all ready use them in the NFL, but are not supposed to used it during the game. I remember an old 60 minutes special where they talked about this system where the computer would be given down, distance, position, and personnel and would give the odds on play calls and each player's previous footage could be watch for that particular play to see if they have a tell.

Re:But will anybody use it? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411368)

It will be impossible to detect. Seriously ... it will be impossible, as a matter of security policy, to disconnect citizens from access to the internet. It will be impossible to install software on your implants to verify your input stream. It will therefore be impossible to prevent a coach from remotely accessing a computer solving these problems. The coach will deliver the computer's solution, and there will be no way to detect that this is happening.

The machine says it's time for you to work now. (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410962)

It actually worries me a bit that we're letting computers make decisions for us. I can see doing labor and computations, but when you place the machine in the decision making process and the human follows, then the machine has become the master. I know right now it's all well and good and very acedemic, but I really REALLY don't like the idea of say, a machine manager. People feel that we're already cogs in a great machine, this is just a baby step towards a very scary future.

Also, when we let machines make decisions for us, we officially stop thinking for ourselves and we let those who created the machines do the thinking for us. The machine is becoming a crutch rather than a tool, and if that happens we as a people will cease to intellectually grow.

Re:The machine says it's time for you to work now. (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411022)

We as a people stopped growing intellectually at about the time we started allowing money to make our decisions for us.

Re:The machine says it's time for you to work now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411148)

Read some Hegel, please.

Re:The machine says it's time for you to work now. (1)

Musically_ut (1054312) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411174)

You are not the only one thinking on those lines [marshallbrain.com] .

Re:The machine says it's time for you to work now. (1)

Bucc5062 (856482) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411428)

It could be based on perspective. Asimov wrote a couple of short stories with positronic brains making world decisions. [wikimedia.org]

Given the nature of the human condition these days, perhaps the overused meme "I for one welcome our life decision making robots" is better then the current option, greedy, political, me oriented humans.

Re:The machine says it's time for you to work now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411470)

i take it you don't use timers when you cook your food..."oh the timer ding'ed that must mean the food is done"..."no i can't let the machine tell me what to do, so i am not listening!"

10 minutes later..."darn it i burned the food again!"

Re:The machine says it's time for you to work now. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411566)

that came true the day the clock was invented

1 variable? (1)

mikaelwbergene (1944966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35410986)

They consider knowing the answer to everything ever with no limits one variable while numbers of gameplays more?

If anything this is exactly what a computer is designed to do, not fish through millions of facts and try to use them to answer a question which it may or may not even understand.

Ridiculous comparison.

Game theory is based on rules and statistics which is what a computer loves to crunch, random facts? Not so much.

Re:1 variable? (1)

trollertron3000 (1940942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411384)

But where does one gather that data to crunch? Historical analysis wouldn't be enough to predict the proper strategy in a NFL football game.

Hrm... Oh, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35410994)

Sounds to me like a salesman selling his wares...

Why play the game at all? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411004)

Replace the coaches and players with robots. Or just simulate the whole thing in cyberspace.

Games are exercise. Pro sports forget that. A big lot.

Human element needed (3, Insightful)

kenrblan (1388237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411018)

If both teams relied solely on computer models to make the decision, both teams would likely know whether an attempt on 4th down would be attempted. There would almost never be an unexpected attempt, and the only unaccounted variable would be the actual play to be run on the attempt, which could also be predicted relatively accurately by considering coach play calling tendencies.

Re:Human element needed (1)

leonardluen (211265) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411510)

until someone writes the script

`/dev/rand | chooseplay`

Re:Human element needed (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411518)

The only way to win is not to play.

Re:Human element needed (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411590)

The only way to win is not to play.

Just don't let your enemy know that's your strategy.

Re:Human element needed (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411532)

... and the only unaccounted variable would be the actual play to be run on the attempt, which could also be predicted relatively accurately by considering coach play calling tendencies.

They don't call it game theory for nothing.

Re:Human element needed (2)

FesterDaFelcher (651853) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411542)

All I heard was: "You've beaten my giant, which means you're exceptionally strong, so you could've put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you've also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me."

Re:Human element needed (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411564)

Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool... you would have counted on it... so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me!

Re:Human element needed (1)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411594)

If both teams relied solely on computer models to make the decision, both teams would likely know whether an attempt on 4th down would be attempted. There would almost never be an unexpected attempt, and the only unaccounted variable would be the actual play to be run on the attempt, which could also be predicted relatively accurately by considering coach play calling tendencies.

I suppose you're claiming that a model could never be built that had the value of surprise or unusual choices as one of the variables. And a random element is right out.

More seriously, if you can think of general characteristics of anything, it's usually pretty easy to come up with a model to cover it. Especially when big money is involved. The same reasoning posited above would argue that Watson was impossible to build. I'm glad the very talented folks at IBM did not succumb to such shortsightedness.

Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (0)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411026)

What are these things? (Blatant US-biased post...)

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411136)

Ten posts down from the top! Well, I expected the typical "DURR DURR Americans DURR stupid DURR I can't get it in my Eurohead that another culture might do something differently that Us Good People DURR" post to be a lot farther up. Good job though, without you we might have had a story about football where someone didn't point this out.

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (1)

afex (693734) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411178)

Good job though, without you we might have had a story about football where someone didn't point this out.

Oh great, now you're gonna have a ton of replies complaining about your use of football vs. american footall!

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411142)

Waaaaa. A US-based website has an article about a US institution doing research into using computers in US sports, and I am too lazy and or stupid to look up terms I don't understand, so I'll just complain about US bias. Waaaaaa Waaaaaaa

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411144)

Jeopardy is a television quiz show you've recently seen countless articles about on slashdot, due to IBM having fielded a computer to play as a contestant for a time.

The Super Bowl is America's biggest annual sporting event. The game is American football.

"Forth Down" is part of the vocabulary of that game.

For more information, see the following:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Bowl [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Football [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeopardy [wikipedia.org] !
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watson_(artificial_intelligence_software) [wikipedia.org]

Hope it helps.

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (2)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411194)

I'll take xenophobia for 800.

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (1)

Wingman 5 (551897) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411198)

Brain of Britain, World Cup, and one penalty from a change of possession in rugby

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411386)

They have downs in Canadian and American Football, American Football is played in Europe, Japan and Mexico.

Jeopardy has been internationalized since 1964 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_versions_of_Jeopardy [wikipedia.org] !

And as many people watch the Super Bowl outside the US as watch in the US, so it's not that "US-biased".

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (1)

DopeSometimes (1726784) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411408)

It's actually a Belgian holiday of filling a large bowl with down, the American superbowl is something different. Slashdot does have a blatant belgian bias.

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411418)

Soccer yes that is what it is called, would probably be too boring even for a computer and sleep mode would have to be disabled, because of ties there would be no motivation to try to score so there would be even more kicking it back and forth.

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (1)

trollertron3000 (1940942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411460)

And apparently they don't have Google [lmgtfy.com] in other countries.

Why you couldn't be bothered to look up the terms is beyond me.

Re:Jeopardy? Super bowl? Forth Down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411658)

Y'know, that used to be cute and funny. Back, say, in the 1800s when the US first started diverging from European culture to that extent.

Now it's getting more than a bit pathetic to keep bringing that up. It's like those 40-year-olds who still obsess over toys and action figures from 80s-90s cartoons as if the world depended on those memories. Just accept that this is a US-centric site, most of the visitors are from the US, we're different than you are, and we just don't care.

In fact, we're more than a little bit miffed that we get the rest of the world bitching that we're the ones who have our heads stuck so far up our own asses with our ethnocentric nature, and then we keep getting shit like this. Seriously. We're different. Deal with it.

emotional calculations always inaccurate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411034)

trying to outfight a jet? almost like believing one could take down a giant steel monolith with a flying taxi-cab.

it's all about risk/reward (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411044)

there are two risk reward ratios

the ghetto risk where you risk a lot for little potential reward. choose any stupid scam you read about where the idiot criminal gets caught for stealing very little money in the big picture. say a few thousand $$$.

the good risk where you risk a little or even a lot but for a good reward. like say finding a new job at google.

fourth down is a bad risk unless you're losing and there is very little time left since most plays in sports result in very little reward or none at all. like in baseball where hitting the ball 1/3 times means you're a superstar.

Re:it's all about risk/reward (1)

ShadyG (197269) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411366)

Depends. Some teams have less than stellar placekickers. If you can't reliably make a field goal from the 30 yard line, and you have 4th and 2 at your opponent's 35, maybe you go for it mid-game. Any punt made from that position can only potentially help you out in field position by 34+ yards, and if you try you run the risk of the ball going through the end-zone netting you all of 15. Add to that a missed field goal turns the ball over at the spot of the kick, not the line of scrimmage, so you'd be set back some 17-18 yards on the play in addition to turning it over. There's this dead zone somewhere from the 35 to the 45 where you see a lot of 4th down attempts because the numbers don't justify any other action. I believe a strategic computer would make the same decision.

Simpson's did it! (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411068)

Seriously, there was a Simpson's episode [wikipedia.org] about this very topic.

Obligatory Canadian (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411082)

My football has only three downs [www.cfl.ca] you insensitive clod!

Actually, the blog 55 Yard Line has an excellent article on whether or not more coaches should go for it on third down [yahoo.com] based on yards to go for a first down and the line of scrimmage.

Re:Obligatory Canadian (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411622)

Someone ran the numbers for the NFL about a decade ago. I've been carrying it around in my PDA/Palm phone/Google phone ever since.

Coaches, to a man, vastly underestimate the value of going for it on 4th down. Vastly.

quantify the human factor? (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411088)

How do we quantify a human characteristic like courage? Knowing a player is competing despite having a minor injury is one thing; knowing how hard he will compete and how well he will play is something else. Until we can quantify both qualitative human characteristics like courage, fear, ambition, and stubbornness, as well as the "gut call" a coach makes based on his impressions of the individuals on the field and how they function as a group, computers aren't going to be better at this. They will probably be wrong more then humans are. How do you teach a computer that when dealing with people, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts? We are basically talking about creating computer programs that are not completely logical, but that are both logical and intuitive--which implies a certain amount of irrationality.

Hockey pucks (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411118)

I don't care about strategy, but the NHL is lousy at telling if the puck is above the height of the crossbar when a goal is deflected out of the air. My team has been obviously burned on this twice this season, one game-winning goal for the other guys allowed and another disallowed for us that should have counted. I would love for stats so the ref could instantly tell if a puck crossed the goal line under a goalie, too.

Wrong crowd, or stupid question? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411140)

If humans can't beat a computer at 'Jeopardy!' why should we trust them to make the right call on fourth down in the Super Bowl?

Good point. I will replace the head coach of my NFL team with a computer as soon as I'm done having dinner with the queen of England.

Re:Wrong crowd, or stupid question? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411652)

She's been replaced, too. By a Geminoid [youtube.com] .

Why should we let editors write headlines? (1)

Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411152)

You're an editor at some network-central industry rag. One of your staff writers heads up to Boston to attend the Sports Analytics Conference. He rubs elbows with big names in professional sports, attends a few break-out sessions that discuss gathering data to reduce player injuries and data acquisition inside basketballs, and then writes up a rambling article to justify his expense account. What's are you to do? Still hung over from the "Watson vs. the humans" Jeopardy! party, you write the headline: "Go for it on fourth down? Ask Coach Watson." This creates such a media firestorm on /. that all coaches in all major sports retire simultaneously. Talk about march madness!

Perhaps Watson could just replace editors?

tactics, not strategy (1)

mveloso (325617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411158)

The example given was a tactical, not strategic decision.

"For the honor of the regiment" /obscure

Pro ball is already a snooze (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411166)

... just like the America's Cup. Who really gives a sh*t

Players (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411188)

Why not just use robot players too.

'Fifty years from now, we're going to laugh about how we used to use humans as players'

Never did I think this clip would be appropriate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411192)

This is what inordinate faith in computers gets you

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoF0a32DhLw

Just damn stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411230)

Really. Following that logic, just build a series of air cannons on wheels that can pass the ball back and forth and make baskets with perfect accuracy from anywhere on court. After all, then computers will "play basketball better than humans". Oops, I forgot...no one would give a damn. We go to basketball games to watch players play ball. That includes the mistakes they make. It's entertainment, not an engineering problem.

Why play the game at all? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411240)

Just simulate it and publish the score.

Re:Why play the game at all? (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411342)

Also simulate some 'special moments' that the news can show on highlights, grab a player at random and give him unwarranted self-importance, then simulate him having a controversial life so people would have stuff to gossip on.

I'm sure most people won't notice the difference.

50 years from now ... (2)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411260)

The robots will be laughing at the robot faction that claims there were once biological beings on the planet.

Undecidability Theorem (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411262)

I usually related the story like this: In the 1700s, Isaac Newton and Leibniz invented calculus (you know that really hard stuff we still have a difficult time learning today.) By the late 1800s, math guys knew how to do almost anything using just a pen and paper (calculate orbits, really advanced mostly graduate level math stuff). They felt brilliant. And they said, "shoot, 30 years from now, we're going to essentially be God. From any starting point, we'll be able to predict any outcome."

Then the undecidability stuff with Goedel happened, and then we had intutionism with Brouewer, etc, and they realized it wasn't to be.

This sounds a lot like that.

IT'S A GAME! Fuck the money. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411264)

"Fifty years from now, we're going to laugh about how we used to give coaches this much responsibility"

WTF? Talk about completely missing the point.

 

Seen that 15 years ago. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411326)

Just read again your Captain Tsubasa mangas or watch the 1994 animation series.

Human coaches are part of the game (1)

Khopesh (112447) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411330)

Fifty years from now, we're going to laugh about how we used to give coaches this much responsibility

I hope not; coaches are essential to the nature of a team; these are human competitions, and if we're not considering robotic players, we have no business looking into robotic coaches. Each coach has his or her own take on what should happen, including intuition, foresight, insight, and motivational talking. No computer is going to be able to give an exhausted player a second wind by talking about probabilities and describing an unrehearsed play.

Consider American football, which is often dubbed a chess match between the two coaches. To remove the human element of a game makes it boring, and it's too often forgotten that the coaching staff is what makes players tick. Off the court/field is another issue altogether; we already have lots of extra advisers and computing power to crunch the numbers, and that's where they should stay.

That said, I'm all for a human-v-machine all-star matchup, where the champion team plays an all-star team conscripted and managed by a computer. If the computer is that much better, perhaps the champs could play the season's most average team, or an all-star lineup of the minor leagues or NCAA.

I couldn't help but also tag this article Skynet [wikipedia.org] for the path it seems to steer us towards.

Why human coaches? (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411336)

Because humans are fallible and can't comprehend as many variables as a computer. It's that lack of perfection that makes games great.

Not that easy (1)

trollertron3000 (1940942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411344)

First thing - computers can't beat humans at strategy games where there are huge variables in risk versus reward, such as No Limit Texas Hold em. They can use strategies of course but a pro player can tear them to pieces. See the notes on Man versus machine where Polaris went up against poker geniuses like Bryce Paradis and then read his post analysis if possible. And that was a game of limit. No limit adds a layer of complexity that makes the mind boggle. And that's a simple game. Imagine applying strategy to a game where variables such as human emotions adds weight to a decision.

Two - Could the machine ever gather the same information in the time given a coach? A coach intakes an immense amount of information using all his senses and his staff of assistants. When a computer can intake the same amount of information on a field of play we will have created artificial life. Not something trivial.

Game strategy is ultimately based on information gathering inside information sparse environments. How can a computer compete in that realm?

Statistics (1)

sgt101 (120604) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411362)

And I thought that the reason that statisticians weren't good as sports coaches or generals was because there were 1000's of variables that couldn't be quantified or computed.

oh... wait...

Coaches... dime a dozen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411370)

It has always bothered me how college and NFL football fans think being a good coach is such a rare gift that only a few people in the world can do it. Teams will give contracts for millions of dollars on some coach hoping to bring their team back from a few bad seasons. Then the coach does poorly and gets the boot. And the cycle repeats itself. Truth is that high schools around the country are filled with coaches who have equal chances of succeeding at the NFL level as even the most sought-after coach. Yes there are good coaches and bad coaches, that's not my point. My point is that reputations for talent in coaching get greatly exaggerated. Good coaches are more common than people think. I'd prefer a world where the coaches salaries are back down to earth and ticket prices are more reasonable.

Irrational risk aversion (1)

bigg_nate (769185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411404)

The fact that football coaches don't go for it on fourth down is actually really interesting. It's basically a question of risk aversion -- kicking on fourth down is "safe", while going for it is expected-value-positive but highly risky.

In real life, it makes some sense to be risk averse. Money has decreasing utility the more of it you have, so it's completely rational to refuse to bet your life savings even if there's a 51% chance you'll win. In a game like football, however, utility is necessarily proportional to the probability that you'll win the game. If a play increases that probability on average, it's the correct play no matter how risky it is. Football coaches are treating the probability of winning as if it had decreasing utility. They're being irrationally risk averse.

Once you start looking for irrational risk aversion in games, you start seeing it everywhere. It comes up just as often in Jeopardy as it does in football -- people tend to risk less than they should when they hit a daily double (early in the game, you should almost always bet everything). Funny enough, I don't think Watson got it right either -- in the second half of the first match, it made a relatively small bet when the rational strategy was probably to bet everything.

Re:Irrational risk aversion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411592)

Good point.

If there was a bet that you could make once, and only once that paid 10 to 1 and that had a 0.5 chance of winning, how much would you wager, up to everything you have?

Sports games? (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411490)

Don't computer games, Madden and others, basically already do this? At least on a simplistic level?

Arms Race (2)

travdaddy (527149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411494)

Any coaches not already using computers to help with their strategy are doing themselves a huge disservice. I'm sure they are already crunching all the statistics they have, like how often a 4th down conversion works and using that to help with strategy.

However, I'm not sure this microchip does anything that anybody is interested in. It probably costs a fortune too, and they're putting it in a ball that's going to get knocked around? I'm sure the NBA is not sold on paying a lot of money to find out, as the article mentions, whether Johnny is 14% more dominant with his right hand than his left. And useful stats like "Time of Possession" will still have to be done by a human.

In fact, I can't think of a single stat important enough for a microchip in a ball to transmit in real time, and even if it was, it transmits to BOTH coaches. It's in the ball, so it creates somewhat of an arms race and just creates more information and work for the coaches to consider.

As a strategy researcher... (2)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411516)

I research AI for strategy.

A computer is really good at finding optimal strategies if you can properly quantify relevant variables. In sport there is advantage in not taking an optimal strategy, because your opponent won't know which non optimal strategy you've chosen until it's too late. If you're going to use randomness to determine which strategy to use, then the computer is no better than a coach.

That assumes, probably wrongly, that you can quantify what's going on. Is that opposing quarterback's limp important, a fake, how serious is it (numerically)? Even if a computer is good at predicting one particular game, (say the superbowl) that would be based on the data from the whole of the rest of the season to assess how good the players are.

There's a lot of sport to be had in running AI's against each other, especially based on the same sets of data and see what they do. But that is a *very* different problem from actually simulating a real match, yes, the average of 10000 trials may be correct, but there are only a few real games, not thousands. That randomness, sportmanship, and people doing extraordinary, unexpected and great (or stupid) things is what separates a real match from a statistical model.

6000 measures per second!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411640)

Wow 6000 measures per second!!

If only there were a machine being able to process massive visual information(tenths of millions of measures per second), and sound (tenths of thousands), along with 3d perception and emotional and physical information about your players and being able to valid extract info from that and structure that into abstractions like a language and logic and make decisions about it(strategy)... oh wait...

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