Intel is doubling down on its investment in sports technology.
That much was evident at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, when the tech giant spent half of its 90-minute keynote announcing partnerships with companies like ESPN, New Balance, Red Bull, and Oakley.
And already, Intel’s new focus on sports tech will be on display to the public this weekend at X Games Aspen.
The company has embedded a small piece of motion-tracking hardware with its Curie technology on competitor snowboards that will provide a wealth of never-before-seen data showing how high athletes are getting, how fast they are going down the mountain, how hard they land, their exact degree of rotation, and more. The information will be broadcasted in real-time to viewers in Aspen and to those watching on ESPN and ABC.
Steve Holmes, vice president of smart device innovation at Intel, told GeekWire that for sports like baseball and football — which unveiled “Next-Gen Stats” this season — there is already a wealth of details statistics for fans to see. But for the X Games, this level of analysis has yet to arrive — until now.
“In the world of action sports, there is a tremendous amount of opportunity to tease out some of the nuances of what athletes are doing,” Holmes said. “If you look at something like slope-style snowboarding, there is still very much left up to the commentator and the knowledge of the viewer to understand exactly what is happening. These new real-time metrics will make for a much more exciting and connected experience.”
This data is also valuable for the athletes themselves, Holmes explained.
“They can use it to understand what did and didn’t work,” he said. “Coaches can also use it to give additional feedback and to improve training. Over time, this technology can also be helpful for people to better understand when they get tired, and thereby be used for preventing injury or improving the quality of runs by taking the appropriate amount of rest.”
Holmes added that this information can also be used to create “games within games,” much like fantasy football.
“I don’t see why that needs to stop at football — it could apply to any of these sports,” he said.
At a higher level, Holmes said that Intel is focused on using its technology to create experiences to improve people’s lives, and that falls right into the sports world. This was evident during the CES keynote, when Intel CEO Brian Krzanich talked about using Intel’s hardware and software to help New Balance develop next generation smartwatches, or help Oakley make smart-glasses that provide coaching during exercise for people through speech technology, or allow TV broadcasters to show 360-degree angles during NBA game replays.
“We’re at a big transition point now with being able to bring computational horsepower and miniaturize technology,” Holmes said. “It’s a natural time for Intel to really participate in a much broader way in sports.”
Krzanich echoed those thoughts on a separate panel at CES about sports tech investing with people like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal, who himself is a big sports geek. The Intel CEO said that the uptick in sports technology-related investments can be simply credited to improvements in technology itself. He cited innovations like virtual reality and wearable devices that are now ready to be used by the masses.
“It’s hitting a breakthrough,” Krzanich said. “If you think it’s big now, just wait until the next two or three years when we’ll have another set of breakthroughs.”
Krzanich added that “you almost have to bring technology to sports — otherwise it will fall behind.”
“As you go around the world and talk to various industries, almost every industry is realizing that technology is bringing efficiency or new customers or new ways to look at data,” he said. “Those that don’t adopt technology are falling behind, and I think the sports community is just seeing the same thing.”
Holmes said to expect even more sports-tech related innovations coming from Intel over the next several years.
“I can guarantee that we will keep coming up with things that inspire and excite people,” he said.