Artificial intelligence becoming fantasy football reality

UK researchers ready AI software system as Premier League soccer season nears

University of Southampton researchers are fine-tuning an artificial intelligence system they say will give them a leg up in the English Fantasy Football League when the Premier League soccer season kicks off in August.

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In tests at the university's Electronics and Computer Science program, the researchers' artificial soccer team manager has ranked on average in the top 1% of 2.5 million players. The AI system, outlined in a paper that is being presented at an AI conference in Toronto this month and based on Ph.D. student Tim Matthews' dissertation, gets its smarts from algorithms that analyze players' weekly and season stats.

The researchers plan to use the AI system in tandem with human insights (their own) to compete in the Premier League fantasy game.

"Our previous tests have shown that a machine working on its own will perform better than millions of humans. But a machine can't take into consideration if a player is injured (and still plays), has low morale or has personal issues and may not perform at his best," says Sarvapali Ramchurn, lecturer in computer science.

Also in the works: a Web app that will share its wisdom with other players and allow them to compete against it.

AI has been used by other researchers to predict sports results. For example, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers annually tout their Logistic Regression Markov Chain system for making NCAA men's basketball tournament picks. 

Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +.

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