New analytics project to preserve GAA players’ moves for future generations

6 May 2016

The way GAA is played today will soon be preserved forever, allowing future generations to learn from the likes of Henry Shefflin, through the use of advanced sensors and data analytics, with help from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics.

The particular way GAA players play today compared with 100 years ago varies considerably, as in other sports, but when we look back at those times the only way to determine how much differently it was played is to find old film footage.

With this playing on the mind of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, a group of researchers from the centre has spent the last three years compiling huge amounts of player data using sensors and data analytics to preserve the techniques of our Irish traditional sports so that future generations will always have access to the moves unique to their games’ heritage.

With the results to be revealed on 10 May at an event in the home of Irish sport, Croke Park, this harnessed data will create a digitised ‘library of movement’ for use by athletes and coaches now and in the decades to come.

With help from EU funding, the Insight centre said that while this technology has traditionally only been available to big budget film producers and game developers, its research has brought the cost of capturing an athlete’s 3D data from over €500,000 to around €1,000.

Easily used at a local GAA club

Using readily-available gaming hardware like the Xbox One’s Kinect camera, Insight said its 3D sensor system can be easily reproduced in a local GAA club.

While local clubs will be able to avail of this simple means of harvesting 3D data, the stars of the games were flown to Oxford to wear a specialised suit fitted with multiple sensors that were picked up by infrared cameras.

Their unique movements were then translated into 3D avatars that will appear onscreen.

Speaking of why this project is so important for the preservation of indigenous sports, Insight’s scientific coordinator, Prof Noel O’Connor, said: “Twenty years ago the last remaining player of a traditional French variant of lawn tennis passed away.

“With him passed knowledge of how to play the game, which is now functionally extinct. All around the world traditional games are dependent on players to keep them alive, and unlike languages or artefacts, the key elements of these games have not, until now, been captured and stored for future generations.”

Match at Croke Park image via Brendan Rakin/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic