What is the Sports Science and Analytics Centre of Excellence at IITM?

The Centre for Sports Science and Analytics at IIT Madras aims to bring scientific rigor to the field of sports. With an aim to create a backbone for a data driven ecosystem in sports, the centre aims to improve athlete performance on field and generate ground-truth validated data on sports research. Since this is a first for India, the program envisions a three-pronged approach to a sustainable sports tech ecosystem:

  • Creation, training and education of a future workforce: The centre has already envisioned short term and mid term training programmes as well as potential joint degree programmes in collaboration with national and international players in the field of sports and education. The center has international collaborations with Northwestern University, and ongoing projects with faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Research and development: R&D of products, services and equipment for athletes as well as coaches to gauge performance of athletes over time. Through first principles modeling projects on ball trajectories, and pitch performances in sports as well as generation of data driven models for the same, the team analyzes minimal parameters that impact sports performance. IoT projects help realize these virtual models with integration of Computer Vision and force estimation sensors that help validate player position, form and shot mechanics data.
  • Commercialization of Research and Development: Through planned incubation centers at IIT Madras, the program aims to build a sports tech startup culture in india. Industry collaborations and corporate partnerships play an important role in its realization.

The world of sports is increasingly dependent on technology. Today, the difference between a podium finish and failure is clearly a technological disparity. While Indian athletes are tremendously skilled and hardworking, on the global stage they lack the technological edge over competitors. The program hopes to alleviate this through indigenous research and development to support not only the athlete at the crux, but also the sub-elite state level athlete who lacks the funding and attention required to rise to the top.

The program has proved its capabilities through a variety of sports suites it has developed that uses Computer Vision, motion detection and force estimation to help coaches detect flaws in the form and posture of athletes. One such application is the form of ‘Smart Box’ for boxing. Garnering interest from the Indian Premier League giant Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), the suite has been adapted to fit the needs of cricket players to develop better skill and increase fan engagement. This collaboration allows for the collection of real-time data from athletes in practice sessions, enabling the distinction between good and exceptional shots based on force transfer—a factor that previously couldn’t be accurately assessed through video alone.

In the last few years, the team has built strong partnerships with major sports governing bodies in India, with the likes of Sports Authority of India, Aspire Institute of Sports and Tamil Nadu Sports Body accepting the and building trust in the program’s vision. This paradigm shift in the way conventional sports bodies look at sports is in itself an achievement as it opens room for dialogue and future collaborations. The way forward is by leveraging the trust and fueling global prowess of our athletes.