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University of York brings the power of data to esports audiences

Posted on 10 June 2020

Researchers from the University of York have presented a ground-breaking data and technology platform, Weavr, to fans at the finals of ESL Birmingham Online, a tournament for professional esports players.

With the University of York team led by the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media (TFTI), Weavr works with five industry partners to deliver data-driven audience experiences across multiple realities, including virtual and augmented reality.

Powered by AI, the platform presents fans with interactive narratives and rich visualisations, providing real-time updates of the virtual arena, showcasing important performances and live statistics and a personalised compilation of on-demand highlights.

At this month’s online tournament new features were introduced across multiple products guided by University of York research, including the Weavr mobile app, the Weavr virtual reality experience and the Weavr Twitch experience.

Athanasios Kokkinakis, Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media: “The weekend was interesting. We successfully fielded machine learning models that in real-time converted complex data streams to spectator-friendly stories, but where you can also dive into the details. Along the way we have a fantastic opportunity to build a better understanding of how esports and sports analysis can be made more accessible and trustworthy.”

New innovations introduced at this month’s finals included automatically generated summaries of esports matches, generated using Natural Language Processing and machine learning. Olu Olarewaju, Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media comments, “Our new algorithm intelligently detects key events across DOTA 2 matches, and uses analysis of real-life post-match commentaries by human presenters to create stories about matches. Because the system is intelligent, it can take into account your personal interests and give you match recaps that are personalised to your preferences.”

Personalisation is also a key element in the work of Justus Robertson, Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media. His system works in real-time during esports matches to not only provide highlights of interesting events to viewers, but also to connect them into data-driven stories: “Our new rollout feature Story Threads. These are sequences of dynamically generated data-driven narrative arcs. The sequences are generated based on performance, in-game events, and historical data. They are then filtered and presented based on each user's unique preferences.”

The platform’s new Twitch extension brings the power of the Weavr data system to the world’s most popular games viewing platform providing fans with real-time data at their fingertips.

Weavr Twitch Extention in action during the grand finals between Alliance and Team Secret at ESL ONe Birmingham Online this weekend.

Moni Patra, Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media highlights the way that the Weavr project connects data and storytelling to audiences: “Esports games are incredibly complex. From start to finish, the action is rapid and our models need to be able to adapt to a vast data space in real-time. A good example is the draft phase, where the teams select which heroes to play. Here our models need to take into account millions of possible combinations. I was very happy with the way our Bayesian models predicted which heroes teams would select. It makes for a great watching experience.” 

The Weavr mobile app, powered by AI models developed at the University of York 

Florian Block is R&D Director, Weavr and co-founder of the largest esports research environment in the world, based at the University of York, where teams work across disciplines with the esports community: “Being able to work with real esports fans in the context of large international esports events provides us with valuable insight on how AI-driven storytelling can add value to viewers and tournament organisers”

Anders Drachen, Head of Analytics, Weavr and Professor, Department of Computer Science, notes: “At the University of York, we are fortunate to have world-class environments across multiple departments supporting innovation in esports. We are breaking new ground in how we use data to empower audiences to control their personal viewing experiences.” 

Weavr is a £5.8m project, backed by funding from UKRI as part of the Industrial Challenge Fund looking at audiences of the future. University of York works alongside industry leaders such as ESL, Cybula, dock10, Focal Point VR, REWIND and Future Visual to deliver next-gen audience experience in esports and sports. 

For more information about the esports research and development at the University of York, visit arc.york.ac.uk and follow @arena_cluster on Twitter. For more on the Weavr project, see weavr.tv or follow @weavrtv on Twitter.