Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BrainPEER (Brain Performance Enhancement Revolution - Advanced Cognitive Training System for Football Players)
Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2017-04-30
Football is the world’s most popular sport. Due to its competitive nature, football players of various ages are in a constant quest to improve their game and win. Some aspire to reach fame and financial prosperity. Others seek higher social status and acceptance. According to football experts, the main differentiating skill between good football players and average ones is game intelligence. Alas, there are currently no effective tools to improve this critical aptitude. ACE presents an innovative and highly effective cognitive training program, addressing football-related cognitive skills such as spatial awareness, anticipation, and decision making. The outcome of the project is a market-ready brain-training product for football players of all ages and skill levels – the Football IntelliGym. The program is designed as a friendly video-game, compatible with multiple devices, and at an affordable price.
The Football IntelliGym is market-tested and finalized and ACE plans to introduce it a huge target market: 265 million football players, of which 61 million are in Europe.
The project was carried out in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Israel. Two universities (VU University Amsterdam and the Cologne Sport University) and 10 football clubs took part in the project.
Developing the Football IntelliGym is based on ACE’s patented training technology called Cognitive Simulation. In a nutshell, the IntelliGym addresses the cognitive skills needed for a specific task (e.g. playing football), taking into account the combination and intensity of such cognitive skills as well as the user profile. Accordingly, a football task analysis was conducted: mapping the brain skills needed for the game of football. Such an analysis includes various game scenarios (e.g. review of offensive and defensive plays), players’ positions and roles as well as age, gender and cultural/style differences.
Based on this cognitive map, the researchers planned the training program for the IntelliGym. The program contains all the training factors, such as training stimuli, duration, levels of difficulty and personalization of training.
The training environment is manifested in a form of a video game, to ensure a fun and engaging training experience. Notably, it does not resemble an actual football game. This design is based on a body of research that shows that training stimuli utilizing high visual fidelity can actually hinder real life performance.
The full specification of the Football IntelliGym includes all the “game” elements within the actual training environment such as visual objects, movement dynamics (based on AI algorithms), game challenges, scoring schemes, feedback dialogues and navigation and orientation maps.
The initial version of the program was in 3 languages: German, Dutch and English.
In addition to the training environment, coaches’ module has been developed. This is a mobile application that provides football coaches with details about the players’ IntelliGym training activity and progress, and allows them to influence the training emphases for each trainee.
The Alpha and Beta trials involved top football academies as well as local researchers. Nearly every football club and academy approached had a strong need for tools to enhance players’ awareness and decision-making skills and thus was interested to participate in the trials.
The football teams selected to participate in the pilots were of ages 13 to 19, playing in top academies of football clubs in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. In total, more than 600 players from 10 football clubs participated in the Beta trials.
Studying the efficacy of the Football IntelliGym is done in collaboration with leading football performance researchers - Prof. Daniel Memmert of the Cologne Sport University and Prof. Geert Savelsbergh of the VU University Amsterdam.
The study compared the on-pitch performance of football players, before and after their cognitive training. The change in performance of each test group was compared to a control group engaged with a control task in order to factor out placebo effect.
The study showed a significant effect favoring the experimental group (IntelliGym-trained participants) over the control group in average performance improvement.
Further analysis of the data compared various football performance parameters: attack with ball possession, attack without the ball, positioning and defensive game. Here, again, the test (IntelliGym-trained) group showed significantly better performance than the group engaged with the control task.
The full study has been published on the EU’s open air research platform, titled: Football IntelliGym Efficacy Analysis: PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar Football Academies.
To the best of our knowledge, the IntelliGym is the only cognitive training system scientifically proven to enhance footballers’ on-field performance.
The positive results of the study were covered in the media, with description of the training system, its history and the technology behind it. It has been presented as the next frontier of training athletes: addressing their brain skills.
One important element that intensified the attention of the media was the collaboration between ACE and national football governing bodies such as the DFB (the German Football Federation).
The coverage of the Football IntelliGym included prominent media outlets from Germany (e.g. Bild), the USA (the New-York Times), the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, Greece and Israel.
ACE’s strategy is to present its revolutionary training concept in sports first, where performance is highly visible and constantly quantified. This will pave the way to presenting effective brain trainers for other complex and cognitive-challenging professions such as first-responders, medical staff, operators of control centres (e.g. airport controllers and smart city officers), and drivers.