Innovation in the sports industry is constantly evolving, with activity driven by digital advancements, high level of social media interactions, broad appeal for immersive sports experience, and fan engagement, as well as the growing importance of technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, cloud, data analytics, wearable tech and many more. In the last three years alone, there have been over 48,000 patents filed and granted in the sports industry, according to GlobalData’s report on  Artificial Intelligence in Sports: Virtual trainers.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

20+ innovations will shape the sports industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the sports industry using innovation intensity models built on over 101,000 patents, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, autonomous ball picking, context adaptive exercisers, and smart game scoring displays are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Automated active rehabilitation devices, game performance analytics, and virtual trainers are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas is the automated card dealers, which is now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for artificial Intelligence in the sports industry

Virtual trainers is a key innovation area in artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence-driven personal coaches, known as virtual trainer bots, identify training demands and use relevant inferences and inscription from earlier study as the input parameter to formulate the design of the training programmes. AI-powered virtual trainers design customisable, individual-based training programmes to improve learning.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 70+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established sports companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of virtual trainers.

Key players in virtual trainers – a disruptive innovation in the sports industry  

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to virtual trainers

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
NIKE 635 Unlock company profile
Peloton Interactive 98 Unlock company profile
iFIT Health & Fitness 95 Unlock company profile
adidas 78 Unlock company profile
LG 61 Unlock company profile
Lululemon Athletica 57 Unlock company profile
Apple 53 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 48 Unlock company profile
Lagree Technologies 47 Unlock company profile
Technogym 36 Unlock company profile
Nautilus 36 Unlock company profile
Icon Ip 36 Unlock company profile
Sony Group 33 Unlock company profile
Technikka Conexion 31 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 25 Unlock company profile
TOCA Football 24 Unlock company profile
Fox Factory Holding 21 Unlock company profile
Pillar Vision 21 Unlock company profile
Whoop 18 Unlock company profile
Tonal Systems 17 Unlock company profile
Nintendo 17 Unlock company profile
David Health Solutions 17 Unlock company profile
NuStep 16 Unlock company profile
Koninklijke Philips 16 Unlock company profile
F45 Training 16 Unlock company profile
Interactive Strength 15 Unlock company profile
InfoMotion Sports Technologies 15 Unlock company profile
Renovia 14 Unlock company profile
IncludeFitness 14 Unlock company profile
Intel 13 Unlock company profile
Dorel Industries 13 Unlock company profile
International Business Machines 12 Unlock company profile
Teijin 12 Unlock company profile
Sega Sammy Holdings 12 Unlock company profile
Wahoo Fitness 11 Unlock company profile
mediVR 11 Unlock company profile
Hydrow 11 Unlock company profile
Pentland Group Holdings 11 Unlock company profile
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone 10 Unlock company profile
Boston Biomotion 10 Unlock company profile
Funky Moves 10 Unlock company profile
Fitness Cubed 9 Unlock company profile
Arccos Golf 9 Unlock company profile
Garmin 9 Unlock company profile
Seismic Holdings 8 Unlock company profile
Artemis 8 Unlock company profile
SHOOT A WAY 8 Unlock company profile
Integrated Health Partners 8 Unlock company profile
Superflex 8 Unlock company profile
eGym 8 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Nike is one of the leading patent filers in virtual trainers sector. Some other key patent filers in virtual trainers industry include Peloton Interactive, iFIT Health & Fitness, adidas, LG, and Lululemon Athletica. Nike has the largest market share when compared to any other sports equipment company and is continually coming up with new trends and inventions in the area of new virtual training tools for athlete performance enhancement.

In terms of application diversity, Whoop leads the pack. Pentland Group Holdings and Alphabet stand in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Renovia holds the top position, followed by Callaghan Innovation Research and Teijin.

AI-bot technology provides organisations with the ability to utilise artificial intelligence, machine learning, and sports analytics to generate insights and make effective decisions both on and off the playing field. Benefits of virtual trainers include player performance analysis, supportive data to help with draft decisions, the ability to assess which players to sign based on present value and risk, the capability to evaluate trade options, accurately target offers, and provide feedback to players and coaches to improve player development as well as anticipate and avert injuries.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the sports industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Thematic Research: Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Sport.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.