Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank is backing HEED, a platform powered by artificial intelligence that’s meant to better connect fans to the emotional and physical realities of sports.
The tech giant announced this week that it had led a $35 million funding round for HEED to accelerate the startup’s growth in internet-of-things analytics and artificial intelligence. HEED uses those technologies and a series of sensors worn by athletes to better visualize sports and enhance the fan experience on mobile.
The HEED platform promises to illuminate “the invisible insights behind key moments from live events.” It uses AI to identify the most exciting moments—similar to tech used by companies such as IBM for automating highlights—and IoT-based data to generate new insights about sports. Visualizations can be delivered in real time to fans’ mobile devices. According to TechCrunch, HEED can make “inferences about a player’s emotional state based on the data.”
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The startup, created through a joint venture between IoT company AGT International and advertising and talent agency Endeavor, plans to use the latest investment to bolster its expansion through partnerships with sports clubs and leagues around the world, notably across soccer, MMA, and basketball.
“HEED has developed a unique platform that is changing the way fans watch and interact with sports,” said SoftBank CFO Alok Sama, in a statement. “HEED is taking a traditionally static experience and providing fans with deeper insights into the physical and emotional aspects.”
In August 2017, HEED announced partnerships with the UFC, EuroLeague basketball, Professional Bull Riders, and a number of soccer clubs. With the EuroLeague, HEED deployed IoT sensors in all 16 arenas of the premier European competition, capturing data on audience, players, and coaches. With Pro Bull Riders, it outfitted both the bull and rider with sensors that measured spin, direction changes, kicks, and rider control, upgrading the league to a more objective, metrics-based scoring system.
“Technology has evolved tremendously in interpreting the physical world,” said HEED co-founder and AGT International owner Mati Kochavi in the announcement. “HEED is harnessing this to create a new sports fan experience.”
Artificial intelligence is being deployed across the sports technology world to better identify highlights, while sensors are being used to accumulate as much data as possible about events and athletes. HEED is taking a unique approach in that it is attempting to make inferences about the emotional aspects of sports. Teams and leagues are hunting for ways to engage fans. HEED is attempting to solve that issue by enabling fans to feel more connected to the highs, lows, and general excitement felt by the athletes and coaches during athletic competition.