Madan Raj Rajagopal - Co-founder of Ludimos - Data-driven personalised online coaching
I was born in Dharmapuri, a remote village in the western part of the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. Like every child from India, I used to play a lot of street cricket. And once again, like everyone else, I have been a huge fan of Sachin Tendulkar since the age of 8. Because we did not have a television in our house, we would go and watch cricket wherever we could find a television. It was a communal tradition. During that time, India vs the West Indies was the most anticipated series. I would stay up till late at night to watch these test matches.
Coming from a lower socioeconomic family, my parents could not provide me with formal cricket coaching or cricket equipment. Therefore, I had to focus on education rather than chasing my dream to be a cricketer. I studied Production Engineering for undergraduate education, but I was hugely curious about robotics and Artificial Intelligence since 2010. Realizing that AI will dominate in the future, I decided to enrol into AI. People close to me thought that studying AI was a bad idea because AI was still in its nascent stage back in 2010 and there were very limited opportunities in the field of AI in India. Things have changed remarkably with everyone now convinced that AI is the way forward. I still persevered and got admission to study M.Sc Artificial Intelligence with a full scholarship at the University of Maastricht.
The first thing I searched in The Netherlands is a cricket club in my neighbourhood and was successful in finding one. Now I play in a semi-professional league for the Bloemendaal Cricket Club. Every year, a coach from either Australia and New Zealand is flown in to play and coach. Therefore, at the age of 24, I was exposed to the watchful eye of a coach and being provided with feedback and training to improve my cricket. Even if 24 is a late age for getting professional coaching, I still found great value. One of the downsides that I experienced was that every year we had different coaches with different styles of coaching. For example, the methods of an attacking coach are vastly different from a defensive coach. This made it extremely difficult for me to see the results of my hard work and I could not find a reason as to why this was the case.
The idea of Ludimos started in 2018 when I started to record myself with a camera and utilized these videos as analysis and combined this with the coach’s feedback. There were applications such as HUDL that were used for video analysis over a short period of time, but it was just a small part of the entire coaching and development process. There were no platforms or tools that were able to help me in the end-to-end coaching process, right from recording videos to getting feedback, drills and corrections in a simple to use the app. There was a competition called "International Create Challenge (ICC) 2018" in Switzerland, which I accidentally found when I was searching for the International Cricket Council (ICC). Individuals who had ideas that involved machine learning and artificial intelligence were invited. I decided to give the competition a try and see if we had an idea that was worth considering. Fortunately, we went on to win the challenge and even had funding to further build on the project. We now formally have five team members to start building things on our own. My co-founder, Said Zadou, and I have been working full-time with Ludimos since June this year. We are here to make learning easier for the people involved. Our vision is to extend the reach of cricket to every part of this world by providing a platform that empowers cricket players and coaches. If I had this sort of guidance and feedback from someone when I was younger, then that would have helped me to focus more on cricket and not to give up so easily. Maybe I would have failed, but at least I would know that I gave it a shot. Therefore, Ludimos will provide millions of young players with a platform and tools powered by Machine Learning to improve their game and chase their dreams.
Most online coaching programs will use portals, Dropbox or WhatsApp and communicate through Skype. This is very complicated and time-consuming. Ludimos removes all the rudimentary trivial issues of online coaching and simplifies this by providing a platform where videos can be uploaded once and accessed from anywhere and anytime by the right people who have access. After every video upload, our smart algorithms will extract key moments automatically, reducing the length of videos by 80%. Then coaches will be notified from which point they can do any of the following: -
1. Go through the videos frame-by-frame and in slow-motion.
2. They can provide textual feedback, audio feedback and/or visual feedback using our drawing tools.
3. Players will be notified and will be able to converse with their coaches via Ludimos to discuss feedback in detail.
4. Using visual performance dashboards, managers, parents can keep track of what is going on with their players.
These feedbacks are accompanied to a timeline and therefore a player and coach can assess if there has been any progress with time. After a few months with the benefit of facts and data, we can prove that a player who for example has struggled with a particular shot can now play that shot confidently because they followed the advice of the coach. This will provide the coaches, managers, players and parents with a clear report and profile of how a player is developing.
We are currently targeting specific countries for this campaign, places where cricket is growing rather than the prominent eight countries. We are providing this Ludimos to areas such as North America, the Middle East, Central Africa, East Asia, Scotland/Ireland, Central Europe. The reason is that we know in countries such as India and Australia, where cricket is huge, we can easily get voluminous cricket uploads without much trouble. But our objective is to connect countries where cricket is developing with coaches from developed countries. We have a few more interesting features that I cannot discuss as yet, but those are the features that will add value to the entire coaching process. Now we are at a stage where we are growing and we are looking for investments from different partners so that we can really push on in building those machine learning and data-driven models to add further value to cricketers. Our recent campaign with Gary Kirsten Cricket saw more than 1000 sign-ups and 500 videos from all over the world. We believe that Ludimos can change cricket for the better and help all cricketers to develop their games further by leveraging the power of data and personalised cricket coaching.