In Australia, sport is god. But there’s one problem that plagues every die-hard sporting fan down under – and we’re tired of it.
A (Sleepy) Sporting Nation
Australia is one of the most passionate international sporting nations in the world which is particularly impressive because we’re quite literally very far removed from a lot of the action. And so if you follow any of the Northern Hemisphere’s major sporting events – the Tour de France, NBA, UEFA Champions League etc – there’s a high chance you’ll have at some stage swapped sleeping for live sport streaming.
This doesn’t deter the hardcore fans among us but it does lead to a higher propensity for falling asleep in client meetings, groggy eyes and grumpy vibes the next day – especially if you got up at 3am to watch a game that ends up a total fizzer.
Take the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Hosted in England and predominantly televised between 9pm and 5am (Australian Eastern Standard Time), the hefty percentage of Australian fans tuning in will face the following options: (a) stay up to watch the game and just hope it’s a cracker; or (b) catch the highlights the next day, catching their requisite Zs but missing out on the electricity of the live experience.
It’s Australia’s sleep-deprived sporting debacle.
But what if we could give our country’s sport lovers the best of both worlds?
Gettin’ Techy With It
We wanted to find the perfect middle ground: a way of to ensure Australia’s sporting fans don’t miss incendiary sports moments by waking them up – but only when one of those Moments is about to happen during a game. A smart alarm, if you will.
First, we dug into real-time data streaming, trawling through game data feeds with information around plays, scores, and game time. But our answer was in the audio feed.
Crowd noise and commentary intensity were excellent indicators of what was happening in a sporting event, where exciting moments were usually accompanied by rushes of noise and heightened levels of commentary.
From there, it was a matter of creating an automated way of analysing the audio from a game to identify the most thrilling moments, which would allow us to distinguish the exciting from the lacklustre without having to physically tune in. In step Sydney-based sound and tech gurus Uncanny Valley. We partnered with them to build an algorithm within MaxMSP that could analyse game audio and recognise excitement.
All we needed now was a name (and many hours of testing).
Next Stop: Rugby World Cup
Called ‘HypeCast’ we first ran our new algorithm on a rugby international match from 2014 – and the results far exceeded our expectations.
HypeCast managed to pick up the critical line breaks and action-packed plays within the game, with the algorithm triggering before 80 per cent of the tries during the match – and on average alerting us a whopping 13 seconds before a try.
As we tested more games, HypeCast’s learning functionality was developed through listening to new commentators, crowds, and broadcasts.
The latest iteration of HypeCast uses five different functions that measure multiple variables within a game’s audio, acting as sub-triggers for the algorithm’s master alarm. Only when a specific combination of triggers are activated, the master alarm is triggered (like we said, smart alarm).
After the last round of testing, we were getting between 80 to 100 per cent try prediction and excitement accuracy. Sleepless nights no more – HypeCast was working.
For its grand (unofficial) unveiling, we integrated HypeCast into a dedicated Rugby World Cup app called Rugby Rouser. It’s like a rugby-loving mate who’ll alert you when any high-octane match moments are about to happen, plus it keeps you in the loop on live scores and upcoming fixtures. All you need to do is wake up just in time to see the best bits and not a minute sooner.
How does it work? We’ve passed an optical feed out of the sports broadcast into a Mac mini where HypeCast lives. From there we’re sending trigger alerts from a server to the Rugby Rouser app where notifications appear based on user preferences.
Ultimately, the Rugby World Cup is a beta for this project. We’re going to be constantly testing and optimising our systems to increase accuracy, with plans to trial HypeCast across a swag of other Northern Hemisphere sporting events, and researching other potential applications for the technology.
But mostly, we’re looking forward to no more unwarranted early wake-up calls in the name of sport.
That’s it. Now it’s time for a pre-World Cup snooze.