A 9-year-old smashes the shuttle far and wide and paces up and down the square in Bangalore, India, while her competition refuses to resign. Your rival is not a human. She plays against a machine that plays the game of badminton legend P.V. Sindhu, weakened a few notches to make up for the age difference.
At the court, her father Jayanth Kolla watches the game and takes notes. Kolla is a household name in the tech startup and business ecosystem in India. For the past eight years, he has headed the research company Convergence Catalyst, which deals with mobility, telecommunications, AI and IoT.
When his daughter showed interest in badminton, Kolla hurried to explore options only to realize that the age-old sport could use a deep technology.
He turned to a few friends to find out if they could build a device. "I always wondered how a younger version of players who made it into the professional arena played like that," he said in an interview.
Months later they had something better.
Kolla founded Sensate Technologies last year and has hired many industry experts and data scientists from Stanford, MIT and the Indian IIT. Sensate builds solutions on profound technologies such as AI, ML, advanced analytics, IoT, robotics and blockchain.
Last year, the bootstrap startup developed seven prototypes, five of which are intended for sports. It holds eight patents. That brings us back to the court.
One of the prototypes that Sensate built is the machine that Kolla's daughter plays against. In a recent interview, he demonstrated how Sensate was able to accurately map a player's movements on the field, and smashed the shuttle by watching only two-dimensional videos on YouTube and the mobile camera feed. This was created using Computer Vision AI.
Then the gameplay is refined according to the age difference that is entered into a machine that can now mimic this player at an excellent level, said Kolla.
A handful of startups and established players have been trying to target the sports technology market in recent years. SeeHow, another India-based startup, installs and embeds sensors in bats and balls to track certain types of data that batsmen and bowlers generate.
Kolla's goal is to turn Sensate Technologies into a global deep tech venture foundry and build 20 odd products that then branch into multiple companies across 11 different industries.
Microsoft teamed up with Indian cricket legend Anil Kumble's Spektacom last year to work on a number of solutions, including a smart sticker for bats that includes sensor technology to track performance.
However, Kolla's ambitions go far beyond sports technology.
"The best thing about deep technology solutions and platforms is that you use these technologies to develop solutions to solve a problem in one sector. With very little effort, you can solve problems in a completely different sector," he said.
Kolla, former product manager at Motorola and Nokia, among others, said the startup is also in discussion with one of the world's largest companies looking to license its technology for its healthcare stack. "This confirms our approach." He declined to name potential customers because the talks have not yet been completed.