Queensland University of Technology Researchers Dive Deeper into Quantum Computing and Sports
The sports industry is more than just a way to showcase the limits of human ability. It is run on huge amounts of data, from the minute details in a runner’s stance on a track to the trajectory of a cricket ball. Currently, many companies use AI models to analyze these vast amounts of data in real time, which they can then use in different applications ranging from betting to sports training. With these large data sets, some experts posit that quantum computing, or more specifically quantum machine learning (QML) could make the sports industry more efficient and optimized in the future. Researchers at Queensland University of Technology specifically have been studying how the next-generation technology may impact our modern day sports leagues.
A Way to Analyze Multiple Possibilities at Once
“Quantum computing would allow us to explore a vast number of different paths simultaneously, meaning that we can effectively answer ‘what if’ questions,” explained researchers Dr. Benno Torgler and Steve Bickley from Queensland University of Technology. “In other words, we would be able to run a larger number of counterfactuals. Counterfactuals are an important avenue for identifying new creative solutions in various circumstances, such as finding new ways to play combinations in team sports or improving performance in individual sports like triathlon.” Using counterfactuals, the quantum computer can consider multiple possibilities. Torgler and Bickley added that: “As soon as things become very dynamic, we as humans struggle to make sense of what is going on due to our limited computational capabilities. Counterfactual analysis, particularly in training situations, would allow us to prepare athletes better, become better prepared mentally, train new strategies more effectively and quickly, and so on. Counterfactuals can also be used in live game settings for immediate feedback, particularly in more controllable dynamic game settings such as standard situations in soccer or strategic solutions in American football. It can also allow for the re-evaluation of major strategic decisions like gameplay and positioning of players.” Because many sports, from American football to hockey to rugby all have multiple events happening simultaneously, this can be a limitation for current AI models, and thus an opportunity for QML to add a benefit.
Not only could these machines analyze the simultaneous processes happening in real time, but they can also help to find patterns and predict certain behaviors. According to Torgler and Bickley: “With quantum computing, we can also derive immediate proxies that could identify future problems, such as injury risks of players and player fatigue. This enables us to optimize better, for example, by deciding who needs to be playing at any given moment in time. In general, quantum computing offers an opportunity to rethink the current decision-making methods of trainers, managers, and athletes. As sports become more data-driven, careful management of data over time can improve training structures, enabling more efficient switching between short Olympic distances and Ironman distances, as demonstrated by the recent success of Norwegian triathletes Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden.” With these prediction models, sports such as marathons that severely wear out the athletes can be calibrated for the best performance ability for each individual.
Quantum Computing and Drug Testing
According to the Queensland University of Technology researchers, quantum computing could also be beneficial in optimizing drug testing. As drug tests become a controversial topic for countries and certain leagues to discuss (such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC)), a more streamlined and secure drug testing process, such as one powered by quantum computing, could be beneficial in making more of a level playing field for athletes. Both Torgler and Bickley believe that achieving a full drug-free league is difficult, as there is a current cat-and-mouse game between teams and anti-drug enforcement. “What quantum computing may achieve is to reduce the time lag in identifying new avenues of cheating, making the use of a new drug potentially less appealing while inducing more uncertainty about when something will be detected,” Bickley and Torgler said. “As athletes care a lot about their reputation, they may become more risk-averse in trying to stay ahead of doping testing.”
Quantum Computing and Sports Betting
With its promises for faster and more optimized data processing, quantum computing could also be a huge benefit for the sports betting industry. “Quantum computing has the potential to increase the accuracy of odds and reduce the transaction costs involved in creating odds for sportsbooks, among other things related to the supply of odds,” Bickley and Torgler add. “Additionally, it can contribute to the safety of betting sites by improving digital security. However, there is always the risk of data hijacking for unscrupulous use in gambling. Overall, quantum computing can lead to better handling of information flow, but there will still be enough uncertainty to make sports betting attractive.”
While quantum computers are still in development, their potential benefits are already being predicted and analyzed by experts around the world, such as the Queensland University of Technology researchers. For the sports industry, the new age of quantum computing could create some possible paradigm shifts in processes from betting to recovery to training.
Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a staff writer at Inside Quantum Technology and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, the metaverse, and quantum technology.