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Baseball Set To Go High-tech at NTHU
In recent years NTHU has been giving considerable emphasis on the research of artificial intelligence (AI), and is now planning to promote the application of AI to athletics by establishing a Sports Technology Center. The Center’s first project will be the AI Baseball Program, which will find ways to improve the training of baseball players through the application of AI, big data analysis, sensing technology, biomechanics, and other advanced technologies. The training system being developed will help players at all levels to improve their performance and reduce sports injuries, and is expected to eventually have a major impact on baseball as a sport.
 
The Sports Technology Center is being organized by Dr. Wu Cheng-wen, distinguished chair professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering, who was a famous pitcher in his youth. In his capacity as project consultant, Wu is recruiting ten faculty members from five NTHU departments (Electrical Engineering, Physical Education, Computer Science, Power Mechanical Engineering, and Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management), plus one orthopedic surgeon and two off-campus researchers.
 
Wu said that by integrating the skills of experts in various fields, the Center will develop a system for analyzing and evaluating a baseball player’s physical condition, which can be monitored by using Bluetooth wireless transmission and a mobile phone. As Wu put it, "Taiwan's sensing technology is first-class, and it will soon be possible to quickly develop products at an affordable price."
 
Wu mentioned that in Hanyu Pinyin “AI” is pronounced the same as the Mandarin word for "love," so the AI Baseball Program also has the connotation of "love baseball program." In addition to baseball, it is expected that the training system developed by the Center will be extended to include other sports, including boxing, badminton, table tennis, and archery.
 
The director of the Center is Prof. Ma Hsi-pin of the Department of Electrical Engineering. He explained that the sensing technology developed by the Center will embed sensors and pressure gauges inside a baseball and use the information thus collected to measure the trajectory and rotational speed of pitches, as well as the strength of the pitcher’s fingers. Consequently the pitcher will be able to use this information to adjust the force and angle applied when using various pitching techniques.
 
In addition, the Center is also planning to develop a kind of biosensor IC technology to measure such physiological functions as heartbeat and breathing, which can be used by a baseball player to assess his psychological state, concentration level, etc., so as to improve his performance in high-pressure situations.
 
Wu said that the AI training system to be developed by the Center will take into account all aspects of the training needs of baseball players. For example, the "3D posture simulation" developed by Dr. Chu Hung-kuo of the Department of Computer Science uses the signals provided by a single camera to analyze the dynamic movement of the skeleton, and this information can be used to correct a pitcher’s posture and reduce injuries. Also slated to play a role in the training system is a bio-sensing insole developed by Prof. Huang Po-chiun of the Department of Electrical Engineering which can instantly measure and display the pressure exerted by an athlete's feet as well as changes in his center of gravity.
 
Dr. Lee Yun-ju of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management specializes in biomechanics and human factors engineering. She is responsible for the development of a system to improve batting technique by monitoring the batter’s center of gravity and angle of vision by using ground force plates and eye trackers. Her system will help batters to improve their ability to focus on the ball right up to the moment when it hits the bat.
 
The Department of Physical Education was added to NTHU following the merger with the National Hsinchu University of Education (NHCUE), and has become a key element of the school’s successful research on the integration of sports and technology. Wu said that the laboratory run by Prof. Chiu Wen-hsin of the Department of Physical Education has long been using such high-tech equipments as high-speed cameras and musculoskeletal simulation systems, and that the Department is now organizing a symposium on the application of the latest technological innovations to baseball training.
 
The AI Baseball Program will be the first project of the Sports Technology Center.

The AI Baseball Program will be the first project of the Sports Technology Center.









Members of the AI Baseball Program.

Members of the AI Baseball Program.

Prof. Wu Cheng-wen of the Department of Electrical Engineering coaching pitching technique.

Prof. Wu Cheng-wen of the Department of Electrical Engineering coaching pitching technique.

Eye trackers monitor the pitcher’s angle of vision, and sensors embedded in the baseball measure the pressure applied by his fingers.

Eye trackers monitor the pitcher’s angle of vision, and sensors embedded in the baseball measure the pressure applied by his fingers.

Ma Hsi-pin of the Department of Electrical Engineering (left) is the director of the Sports Technology Center.

Ma Hsi-pin of the Department of Electrical Engineering (left) is the director of the Sports Technology Center.

Lee Yun-ju (left) is developing a system to improve batting technique by monitoring the batter’s center of gravity and angle of vision.

Lee Yun-ju (left) is developing a system to improve batting technique by monitoring the batter’s center of gravity and angle of vision.

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