Golf in the age of AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will make it’s impact known in golf, whether we like it or not. The question is when, and how can one take advantage of it? First, lets back up a little and discern what exactly is AI?
AI at its most basic level, is intelligence demonstrated by machines. Wikipedia defines AI research as “the study of “intelligent agents“: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals.”
A large part of AI is the ability of a machine to “predict outcomes” based on prior data, So if an issue arises, a computer will determine what the best resolution is based on previous attempts.
When we speak of human intelligence, we are generally talking about our innate cognitive abilities to learn, remember, problem solve, and act creatively etc. Our human domain of intelligence is increasingly being accomplished by machines, at faster rates and at a scope previously thought unimaginable. Maybe you have heard of IMB’s Watson beating up on Jeopardy contestants (2011), or reaching back even further in time (1997) when IBM’s Deep Blue computer took on, and beat, the world chess champion, Gary Kasparov. There are many more examples of AI completing research at faster rates than lawyers and even producing art and music that is worthy of discussion.
Translated to the golf course, an “intelligent machine” could help us navigate the course in an optimal fashion with the goal of lowering our scores. Of course the “machine” can not swing the club for us, but maybe it can make use of all the data we generate, as we knock it around from one wrong fairway to the next?
Our Genius ball project is at the crossroads if the IoT (Internet of Things) revolution and AI. The internal processor and proprietary chipset within the Genius ball will provide a mountain of data back into your smartphone Genius app. The question becomes how do we interpret that data into meaningful action items that help golfers improve? This is one area where AI in golf may be able to assist you in making sense of that awful round you just had, so next time you don’t make the same mistakes. It also may be able to help you proactively based on other Genius ball players and optimal scoring locations and club selection. The Genius Ball platform will get smarter as the number of users playing the ball increases (network effects) and feeding data back into the AI engine. More data, means a more meaningful interpretation of statistics (law of large numbers) and better recommendations.
Additionally, OnCore has partnered with Vuzix, to bring you mixed reality glasses for your viewing and golfing pleasure. Vuzix’s Blade will deliver a heads up display, feeding data straight from your Genius ball right into your Blade glasses in real time. It will also be able to display shot recommendations, hole info and other variables you might not otherwise have access to. Imagine wearing the glasses, looking down at your putt and having a visual of which way the green is breaking right in front of your eyes. That is one of many uses for a heads up display.
There are others in the IoT/AI space such as Arccos and Game Golf. These companies pull data from your clubs and feed them into watches and smartphone apps as well. Since they are not launch monitors, they are not giving you actual ball numbers, or location, like the Genius Ball would, but they still offer important analytics for you to measure your game.
Cognitively speaking, we humans are mere mortals on the golf course. We try our best to maximize our chances of scoring low and yet we routinely fail to do so. Lets be honest, no matter how smart a pocket Watson or Genius ball is, we will still struggle with the game. A big area for AI in golf will be helping us understand what areas we need to improve and making shot recommendations specific to our skill level, course conditions and goals we have defined. It is also fun to think about the known unknowns with this new emergence of technology in golf. What are we missing? What will the killer application be? Time will tell, but it sure is a fascinating time to be playing golf, that much we know for sure!
Special thanks to Dan Buckmaster (Lead Hardware Engineer, Genius Ball) for his edits and input