After beating humans at Jeopardy! and building an understanding of state-of-the-art medical research, IBM’s Watson supercomputer is going to make you into the best fantasy football player in your league.
A company called Edge Up Sports has partnered with IBM to use the celebrity computer to bring fantasy football, invented in 1962, screaming into the 21st century. The Watson platform grants a computer the ability to “understand” situational context on a relatively deep level, a capacity only exhibited by humans and other high animals. The software can plug this ability into NFL-obsessed intelligence algorithms to follow a football player’s statistical significance and progress throughout a season, of course, but it also scans social networks and follows news items about a player to build a far more detailed picture of him, right down to his emotional state.
The promise is that this software considers every bit of player data dropped onto the Internet—including the qualitative, non-statistical stuff—in order to advise you on the most obsessively researched player picks and trade ideas.
Watson has previously been put to work in the medical field to keep track of the vast amounts of medical research in published on a daily basis, something that a human doctor would be severely limited in doing due to the heavy time burden required to do so. The potential future promise is that doctors will use Watson systems on a massive scale to make far more informed diagnoses based on the most up-to-date information in their field, and they will do it simply by describing a patient’s symptoms in plain language.
Until then, this comprehensive, computerized attention to detail that may save lives in the future is being aimed at fantasy football, a pastime often mockingly described as “Dungeons & Dragons for jocks.” At the time of this writing, Edge Up Sports has raised $32,000 of a $35,000 Kickstarter goal to be used to bring this idea to life, and with 24 days of fundraising to go, it seems quite likely that the goal will be met. A $22 dollar pledge to the project gets you a one-season pass to the platform, and higher tier rewards are available as well—if you’re feeling especially generous, drop $550 to grant access to your entire league for the maximum in level playing fields.
Such an unconventional application of artificial intelligence is sure to make for an oddball plot element in a future episode of The League.