eDivisie and University of Twente (UT) have started a unique innovation programme to improve the performance of eAthletes. Feyenoord and Heracles Almelo eAthletes who will be going up against the other Eredivisie (Dutch premier division) clubs in the EA Sports FIFA 20 eDivisie competition from 11 November will be taking part in the first pilot programme.
The special eSportslab on the UT campus - downstairs in DesignLab - was set up to improve response times, insight, stress levels and spatial awareness of eAthletes. The UT and the Eredivisie have joined forces to pioneer this combination of eSports and science.
Most eAthletes receive professional guidance from Eredivisie clubs to enhance their game tactics, posture and physiology. The collaboration with the UT adds a scientific component for the purpose of further enhancing eAthletes’ performance.
The first meeting with eAthletes from Heracles Almelo and Feyenoord took place on Wednesday 30 October and included EA SPORTS FIFA 20 games played against each other. “Our work includes psychological measurements such as response time, spatial awareness and personality tests”, explains Dr Guido Bruinsma, UT lecturer and UT representative on the eDivisie programme. “Wearable technology is used to measure the heart rate and stress levels of eAthletes and eye tracking allows us to keep track of their eye movements on the big screen. Emotion recognition also plays an important role. At the same time we will be collecting FIFA 20 data for the purpose of producing readouts of eAthletes’ performance. The purpose is to help eAthletes optimize their performance and improve their analyses of opposing team members in the long term. In professional football you need to know what your strengths are, what your opponent is good at and you need to know all the ins and outs of the game. The same goes for us.”
“Here at eDivisie we aim to play an active role in the continued improvement of eAthletes’ performance levels”, says Arnoud Schonis, eSports project manager for the Eredivisie. “This cooperation will helps us stay in the lead in the world of eSports. When more of our players are active at the highest worldwide level, our competition’s image receives a boost. This programme is unrivalled around the world and highly innovative, which fits in perfectly with our core values. We are proud that our cooperation with the University of Twente leads to scientifically-substantiated advice that will directly influence eAthletes’ performance. The purpose is to perfect the measurements and analyses performed during the pilot programme, which will ultimately benefit the performance of the eAthletes of all 18 Eredivisie clubs.”
Last year, University of Twente already took major steps in the area of top-level sports data research and now eSports has been added. Sports data in Twente really took off thanks to the efforts of Professor Joost Kok, University of Twente dean and an experienced researcher in the field of data science. As the founder of the Sports Data Centre (SC), he worked closely with the Dutch national women’s football team and speed skating coach Jac Orie to collect and process data. Kok: “Many researchers are chomping at the bit to start working with big data. But there are hurdles because big data comes with privacy-related issues. This is why they are looking for areas in which people voluntarily provide data. Sports is one such example. In Twente we have everything we need to ensure that the use of data in sports will be a huge success. Adding eSports to the mix only makes us even more unique and distinctive. We can now also enter data from eSports into the SDC.”
Various disciplines at University of Twente are involved in the eSportslab. In addition to Bruinsma and Kok, the departments of IEBIS, HMI, Psychology and BSS are involved. Bruinsma: “We are now combining and aligning expertise from various UT faculties to further benefit eSports. Goals include making a good design for collecting and analysing data or taking measurements from eAthletes directly, or creating products for eAthletes with the ultimate goal of furthering eSports as an area of scientific research.”
UT is currently working to launch a Master’s programme in sports data science, which will also cover eSports.