ZJU unveils the world’s first-ever AI kinetic sports pictograms

2020-11-25 Global Communications

Spinning, jumping and shooting… In every Olympic Games, static sports icons featured by unique cultures are designed to highlight the beauty of sports, but have you ever seen any animated sports pictogram?

At the 2nd Hangzhou International AI Products Exposition, AI kinetic sports pictograms, designed by a team named “Moran” from Zhejiang University, made their dazzling debut. As long as you make any action in front of the camera, such as shooting a basketball, the recorded video will be transformed into a customized GIF exclusively for you after a series of intelligent calculations and creative design.

“The intelligent system automatically strips away the physical features of the individual, but it retains his or her posture and behavioral characteristics. They are further integrated into sports icons of different design styles so as to form a personalized sport GIF,” said LI Wei, the team’s chief developer and a PhD student at the College of Computer Science and Technology.

“We drew our inspiration from the kinetic sports pictograms designed by the Tokyo Olympic Games,” said LI Wei. In February 2020, Tokyo 2020 unveiled its official Olympic and Paralympic kinetic sports pictograms, the first time in the history of the Olympic Games that these have been created. As a matter of fact, static sports pictograms were also first introduced at the Tokyo 1964 Games, and arose from the need to communicate visually with an increasingly international group of athletes and spectators.

“We were intrigued by these visually dynamic pictograms. It is introduced in a short video about Tokyo 2020 kinetic pictograms that it would take roughly 2-3 years to create them. Prof. TANG Yongchuan, advisor of our team, suggested that we should use AI to develop these aesthetically appealing pictograms,” said LI Wei.

The project was soon launched in July 2020 with a team of 4 members. They selected four sports—basketball, boxing, weightlifting and baseball—and four design styles to form kinetic pictograms. The project was later named “AI Creative Games”.

“In the very beginning, we had intended to employ the state-of-the-art AI generative adversarial technology, but it turned out to be an extremely formidable challenge. Finally, we chose a combination of AI body posture estimation and target detection.” LI Wei demonstrated the formation of kinetic sports pictograms at the scene. After booting up the program on your computer, you can choose to shoot a video on the site or use an existing video, and then edit it. After editing, you can choose one of the four styles to generate your own AI animated icon.

“There is indeed a marked difference even though people are doing the same action,” said LI Wei, “Take boxing for example. A kid tends to do it very softly, so in the generated GIF, you may feel that their hand does not reach out. Although there is no sense of strength, the dynamic icon appears to be exceptional creative. If a professional boxer does the same action, what is captured in the generated GIF will strike you as striking and athletic thanks to his or her agile and powerful movement.”

The team has received a string of invitations from enterprises and institutions. Most amazing of all, the team has won recognition from the Organizing Committee of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games. “The Organizing Committee of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games hopes that our application can be integrated into the all-in-one smart Asian Games system. Subscribers can try it out directly on their smart phones to generate kinetic sports pictograms,” said LI Wei, adding that the team is currently improving the big data about sports videos in an effort to design a wider spectrum of sport events.

“For me, the most fascinating aspect of this project is that it combines our research work and related cutting-edge technology with life and design rather than focus on those ‘cold’ formulae and codes. It’s rather rewarding and fulfilling when our final product is on display,” said LI Wei, “This may be another way that technology can empower our life.”

The AI Creative Games project is jointly developed by the Zhejiang Provincial Key Lab of Design Intelligence and Digital Creativity Research and Alibaba-Zhejiang University Joint Research Institute of Frontier Technologies. The team, directed by Prof. TANG Yongchuan and Prof. SUN Lingyun, is committed to exploring the convergence of design and artificial intelligence and promoting the content and production capacity of the digital creative industry by using such AI technologies as big data, cross-media intelligence and swarm intelligence.