New software to quickly automates sports analytics

Automated sports analytics in an hour.

Team Cherrypick (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)
Team Cherrypick (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

Students at the Rice University have designed a First-of-its-kind software called Cherrypick that provides automated sports analytics in an hour. It is the first kind capable of automatically analyzing volleyball matches and providing analytics.

Cherrypick allows coaches to record a game, upload video and receive statistics from the game within an hour. As it is powered by AI and machine learning algorithms, it can deliver game statistics within an hour.

In addition, the software will allow coaches to settle on information-driven choices in view of the player movement and tailor their training to particular circumstances, including choosing what plays to rehearse, which turn to start a match in, and so on.

The software, Cherrypick, was designed by James Grinage, Connor Heggie, Rebecca Lee, Victor Gonzalez, Sachin Jain and Betty Huang as part of their senior engineering design course.

Grinage said, “Cherrypick will automatically go through the game and extract the important statistical information and tie it directly to the video. Coaches can then easily go through the video and know when different plays took place and who was responsible for specific plays.”

Heggie, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, said “Cherrypick’s ability to provide analytics in an hour sets the software apart from what is currently on the market. Current programs have a data turnaround time of 12-24 hours due to the manual analysis required.”

To test the accuracy of the software, students tagged the ball position in dozens of hours of Rice and club volleyball matches. In total, the students have tagged approximately 20 matches, ranging in length from 1.5 to 2 hours and filmed at 30 frames per second.

“To the best of our knowledge, it’s the largest data set of volleyball tracking play segmentation in existence. We’ve spent a good deal of time over the past year hand-tagging every single frame of video to show where the ball is at all times.”

Grinage and Heggie began working on the project in summer 2017 after conducting research in the lab of Ashutosh Sabharwal, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. The students told Sabharwal that they wanted to focus on an idea they could turn into a startup company following graduation.

Initially, the students’ plan focused on the extraction of highlights from youth sporting events. They planned to design a product for parents interested in cataloging memories of their children.

It was during their research to further develop this idea that the students learned about the popularity of club volleyball, a highly competitive and profitable sport with a large market. They decided to slightly alter their idea and target it to individuals seeking analytics for coaching.

Grainge said, “The original idea involved knowing when certain events – such as when a ball was hit – took place during a game. And that is very valuable information for people who coach competitive sports.”

Panahi, who is also a faculty member at the Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship said, “Cherrypick was really trying to get a sense of some of the components that they would have to put in a plan for actually launching the business. Part of that is getting a sense of some of the financials and understanding a little bit more about where to start in terms of the market.”

Students are further planning to expand the software to include other sports, including tennis and possibly baseball. They plan to work on Cherrypick full time following their graduation from Rice May 12. Gonzalez will also do some work for the startup.