Guelph's Kelly Brooks has created an innovative female-led artificial intelligence platform that aims to change the way sports enthusiasts engage with sports.
With Brooks, President of Guelph-based SpeakFeel corporation, and manager Danijela Covic as the captains who are steering the platform Quarter4’s ship, Brooks said they bring a different perspective in a male-dominated industry of technology creating a sports platform, also dominated by men.
Quarter4 will provide professional-level data-driven insights that easily predict team and player performances and will be able to engage with sports enthusiasts of all levels.
“Our pilot is for the NBA and its artificial intelligence which is a new frontier. Now it's going to expose us as not only a Canadian company but as a North American and hopefully a global company,” said Brooks.
So how did it all start and how is their perspective different?
Kelly first started SpeakFeel in her home in 2009. She says she picked up an iPhone that year and had a gut feeling that it will change everything the world did forever.
Not coming from a programming background, Brooks taught herself programming, spun up SpeakFeel with just an idea, found developers and started offering mobile app development.
Fast forward to nine years with a successful programming company, Brooks got the idea of Quarter4 in an effort to bond with her 11-year-old son.
“He's really curious by nature so he would be like ‘mom the Raptors are playing tonight. Where are they playing? Who are they playing? Is Kyle Lowry injured?’” said Brooks.
“So I was like how do I bond with my kid because every time I was like ‘who's playing tonight’? I would end up being thrown to Las Vegas booking gambling sites with spreadsheets of statistics and numbers.”
Frustrated with the difficulty to find the answer to her child’s questions, she came up with the idea of Quarter4 and headed to West Virginia with SpeakFeel’s manager Danijela Covic to learn about Blockchain technology so they can build a learning platform where users can set up their teams, their favourite athletes along with other information so the system can learn the user’s most popular questions and eventually, start talking to them.
“Because we're two women going into the sports industry, going into the U.S., we are against a lot but our advantage is we're looking at sports in a whole different way. We're not just looking at the athletes as a machine, we’re looking at the athlete who is a human being, who is playing at a certain place and we are also looking at what their background looks like,” says Brooks.
Brooks says women simply have different questions that enable them to perceive athletes in an empathic way which drives their way of thinking and also plays a huge role in the players’ performances.
“Women want to know the whys. Why is he not playing tonight? Did he just have a baby?” says Brooks.
Brooks says the answers to these curious questions absolutely affect the players game.
“Our goal is at the end of the day when Daniela gets into her car and she says ‘Hi Google what is Quarter4’s predictions today’? it will say ‘Hi Daniela, we know that you're a really big fan of the Raptors so just so you know, there is a game on Sunday. Kyle Lowry is still injured. Kawhi Leonard shots were at 35 points game-high, but just so you know they're playing in New York City and they tend not to do well there because the venue is so loud,’” said Brooks.
Brooks says once the platform rolls out, fantasy teams can start using this information to either dig deeper about their own teams or start doing better in fantasy leagues.
Earlier this month, SpeakFeel Corporation received a $100,000 fund from the Government of Canada to grow Quarter4.
The fund comes from the Federal government’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy program which aims to double the amount of female-owned businesses in Canada by 2025 by distributing $2 billion worth of investments across the country.
“The women entrepreneurs and business leaders of Guelph make incredible contributions to our economy and community every day. I’m proud to be a part of a Liberal government that takes women’s economic empowerment seriously,” said MP Lloyd Longfield in a press release.
“From tackling pay equity to modernizing parental leave, this government is taking action on gender equality because when women succeed, we all succeed.”
SpeakFeel Corporation was one of 200 winners out of 4,000 and will use the funds to develop their Quarter4 to grow their business and facilitate marketing opportunities globally.
Brooks said the platform will also be opened up to content creators such as sports reporters where they will be able to log in and select the information they are interested in such as personal events and how it affects the game along with players’ history. The system will then learn the algorithms of the user’s style and the traits they focus on.
“So when you log in as a journalist, 85% of your article will be created and then you will add in your own personal touches and then the system will understand what kind of writer you are.”
Right now, the team is working with sports advisories so they can gain significant knowledge across various fields.
“I really want to change the face of sports and the way people engage with it,” says Brooks.
The BETA testing for Quarter4 will run in July/August of 2019.
“They will only have a certain set of features so our first feature would be for the enthusiastic sports fans. It is just going to do predictions and analysis cause once people start to use it, the system starts to understand the behaviour of the users,” says Brooks.
Once that runs, it will be usable on Android and iPhone platforms within a year.
Brooks says the fun part of the predictions toward the sports enthusiasts and content creation will run in the year 2020 because the prediction process needs to be perfected first.
“What we're doing there is natural language generation so it's really heavy and to build that and to get all of those algorithms running on the artificial intelligence side is pretty heavy. So we're looking to deploy that next year,” said Brooks.
“The consumer play will be for us just to get some traction into it and understand how people are using the tool.”
As of now, the team is headed straight to tech-hubs New York and Boston to get investments from people who have extensive knowledge in this field.