Lero launches Ireland’s first e-sports research lab in UL

29 Aug 2019

From left: Prof Conor Ryan, postgraduate researcher Yueying Gong and lab director Dr Mark Campbell. Image: Lero

Lero aims to work with amateur and professional e-sports players, conducting research to benefit players, managers and sponsors of e-sports teams.

On Thursday (29 August), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centre Lero opened Ireland’s first e-sports research lab.

Located at Lero’s headquarters at the University of Limerick, the e-sports lab will enable Lero researchers to conduct studies designed to boost the performance of international amateur and professional e-sports players.

Future Human

Dr Mark Campbell, director of the Lero e-sports research lab, said: “This is a massive growth sector. Top professional players can earn millions of dollars per annum. However, unlike other professional sports, there has been very little application of sports science to the participants to date.

“Our research lab will combine health science and computing to identify what makes a great player. For example, we will work on psychometric software incorporating eye tracking and brain imaging to measure the neural, cognitive and physical attributes of the most effective players.”

Campbell also remarked that this is an area of sports in which men and women can compete against each other, instead of being made to compete in separate categories.

“While playing video games does have a male image, there is no physical benefit for either sex unlike many traditional sports,” he added. “In e-sports, although there are far fewer female players, competitions are not organised by gender, so men and women compete against each other on equal terms.”

Prize funds

In 2018, total prize money for e-sports competitions exceeded $160m, with prizes as large as $25m in some events. Jordan Crowley, Ireland’s top e-sports player, earned nearly $260,000 in 2018.

In July 2019, Irish teenager Joshua Juliano, playing under the username ‘lolb0om’, won a $50,000 prize at the inaugural Fortnite World Cup.

Global e-sports revenues are expected to grow to $1.1bn in 2019, a year-on-year growth of 26.7pc, according to Newzoo. The audience for e-sports is also expected to exceed 450m people in 2019.

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI and chief scientific adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “E-sports represent a rapidly growing billion-dollar global industry which is using innovation to push the boundaries of technology.

“This new Lero SFI research centre lab will help bring about greater levels of international visibility to the games industry, solidifying expertise across Irish third-level institutions and industry.”

Prof Conor Ryan, a Lero researcher at University of Limerick, added: “We will work with both amateur and professional players. The research will include detailed monitoring of numerous functions from mouse grip to players’ peripheral vision and aural range.

“The findings will be of benefit to players, managers and sponsors of professional e-sports teams and could contribute to the design of future computer peripherals.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic