The health and fitness sector in India is injecting itself with a big dose of digitisation and technology adoption. Attempting to bridge the gap between esports and real-world sports, Bengaluru-based start-up Games Theory is using data, analytics and community building to add an extra zing to recreational sports. 

“After experimenting with fitness innovations, we concluded that fitness inherently lacked excitement. Unlike fitness, sports is enjoyable, requiring no forced effort. But to derive the real excitement of sports one needs to play a similarly skilled opponent. The breakthrough was a unique fusion — a video game-like experience played on real courts, bridging the gap between virtual and physical play,” says Sudeep Kulkarni, founder and CEO of Games Theory. 

He says the company wants to restore the true essence of gameplay since, for example, fitness games like badminton have turned leisurely, losing the competitive edge. 

“Drawing inspiration from video games, we understand the importance of challenge and skill-matched opponents. We aim to hook people with the addictive joy of challenging play, making fitness a natural by-product. We also provide users and young athletes access to pro-level technology for daily improvement,” he says. 

The company has collaborations with sports celebrities such as tennis star Rohan Bopanna and sports institutions such as the Phelps Academy for swimming. 

Smart court

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, computing, wearables, and fitness tech are a part of Game Theory’s innovation. At its core is the proprietary technology built by the company that converts regular courts into ‘smart courts’. 

The smart court essentially blends aspects of real and virtual sporting worlds, such as scores displayed on large screens and a virtual referee voice calling out the scores. The smart court also delivers game videos, broadcast-style, soon after a game ends.

“The company employs deep computer-vision technology to analyse games. This can provide in-depth stats that are currently available only to pro athletes. The data acts as an input for skill-rating algorithms, which are then intelligently used for matchmaking. This precision is derived from millions of data points,” says Kulkarni. 

The company plans to build multiple centres in Bengaluru, covering sports such as badminton, tennis, football, and swimming. In the next 12 months, it plans to open 200 badminton centres, 20 swimming facilities, 20 squash courts, 30 football fields, and 40 pickleball centres in Bengaluru.