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A coach in the sky: AraJoy startup uses drones, AI to help teams get that competitive edge

Company aims to improve upon, cheapen key element
A coach in the sky: AraJoy startup uses drones, AI to help teams get that competitive edge
Posted at 7:08 AM, Feb 09, 2017

CINCINNATI -- AraJoy Inc., a startup in OCEAN Accelerator's new class in Oakley, aims to unite two cutting-edge technologies for one purpose: to give coaches better information about what their teams are doing.

The two technologies are artificial intelligence and computer vision. AraJoy founder Renji Bijoy wants to use drones piloted by AI and using computer vision to film football practices and other sporting events.

"The big picture is essentially creating computer-vision-powered sports analytics," he said. "You would be able to analyze what a team should change to make a play work. Sports analytics is a huge market opportunity."

Where did the idea come from?

Bijoy was working on his master’s degree in computation perception and robotics at Georgia Tech about 18 months ago when he took time out to play in a pickup basketball game in inner-city Atlanta.

He asked one talented player if he’d played college ball, he said, and the player told him college recruiters had never come to his high school. His parents couldn’t afford to film his games and get the video to recruiters.

Bijoy wondered if there was a way to solve that problem. He learned from contacts in the coaching world that filming practices is a cumbersome process usually done with expensive, fixed-location cameras.

Everyone in the coaching world he talked to was interested in a cheaper, better system, he said. Using a drone with a camera that, in the case of football, could simply film from above and follow the offensive line, seemed to offer one.

It would give coaches a bird’s eye view of the action, which they love, Bijoy said. "You can see exactly how players plant their feet … you can see who blocked which wrong player," he added.

This kind of footage also levels the playing field between athletes who can afford to get their games filmed and those who can’t, he added.

Filming from a drone, particularly an autonomous one, would solve several challenges for coaches, said Chris Rocco, the head football coach at Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg, Va., and also Bijoy’s brother-in-law.

Those include getting a vantage point from which the coach can see what he needs to see, Rocco said, and also the challenge of finding someone -- typically a volunteer -- who’s willing to film practice very day.

"The concept of making practice film and game film (of better quality) because of the video angle, and then more quickly available after filming, is extremely intriguing to me," he added.

How will it make money?

There are no customers yet; everything’s in development. But eventually, customers would pay a subscription to use the service.

What’s next?

AraJoy is beta-testing a manually piloted version of its drone-mounted technology, with hopes it can have an AI-piloted version available for beta testing this summer.

Bijoy also plans to continue refining the process of labeling and uploading the footage taken. He wants users to be able to plug into the AraJoy platform and let it do the work for them.

He’s focusing on field sports like football for now, because those coaches watch a lot of film. But eventually, he hopes to get AraJoy into indoor sports like basketball, where it could replace very expensive camera arrays.

He’s also talking with potential co-founders. Right now, AraJoy’s just a one-man show.

"The Lord has brought so many awesome people around me," he said. "Every day is a ton of work, but we’re making progress. I’m grateful for where we’re at."