The JOGO Line-Up with Joseph Groot Kormelink

The JOGO Line-Up with Joseph Groot Kormelink

Behind every successful company, there is a winning team. At JOGO, this is a passionate bunch with the drive to revolutionize the world of football as a collective. In The Line-Up, we would like to show off the brilliant people behind JOGO. In this week’s edition, our Head of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Joseph Groot Kormelink.

Love for creation

Can we build it? Yes, we can! The motto of Bob the Builder also applies to Joseph Groot Kormelink. JOGO’s Head of AI loves any opportunity to create things from the ground up. At a young age, he worked his magic with LEGO and K’NEX in his hometown of Groningen. Nowadays, he makes beautiful things with computer code and brings intelligence to devices. “I always loved to build stuff from scratch, no matter what. So when I noticed that I was good at programming, I found the best way to do so. Coding lets you make whatever you want. You can turn any idea into something concrete.”

The first time Joseph sold his code was on a round trip through Asia, just after finishing his bachelor’s degree in AI at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. “After a month of visiting temples in Thailand, one even more beautiful than the other, I locked myself up with my laptop for a week. That week I programmed the first tool (a communication program for bitcoin fanatics, ed) that I made money from”, reveals Joseph from his remote workspace in Startup Village in Amsterdam, an exciting hub for tech startups. “That was for me the confirmation that I could earn money with something I liked to do. So you can say I owe my programming career to a holiday in Asia.”

Full-time AI nerd

Anno 2021 Joseph is still totally in love with programming, but “a different branch of programming” — the quest to build machines that can reason, learn, and act intelligently. He describes himself on LinkedIn as a full-time AI nerd for a reason. “Because I’m a sucker for AI and especially the technology behind it”, explains Joseph with a grin from ear to ear. “I always loved technology in general. When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the hoover of my parents. I wanted to understand how it worked and build one myself. But to do so, I had to take it apart first. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put it back together, so my parents ended up without a hoover. Haha.”

Joseph already knew early on he wanted to study AI. “I always found the whole concept of AI fascinating, especially that you can create something out of nothing. Besides, it’s an entirely different way of programming and problem-solving”, says JOGO’s Head of AI. ”Where you use coding in conventional programming to build something, you use coding in AI to teach a system to work it all out itself. You create a computer brain with the help of self-learning patterns, in the case of JOGO with pose estimation, ball recognition, and many more.”

One of Joseph’s first test

JOGO AI

The JOGO AI was also the main reason for Joseph to start his journey with JOGO. “David (Dwinger, ed.) asked me to build the AI system from the ground up. He was like, “Here you go, Joseph. Good luck”. Creating something from scratch is one of the coolest things there is. It’s more challenging than elaborating on something that already exists. And I love a good challenge”, motivates Joseph.

He spent quite some all-nighters with his team to build an AI compliant JOGO app that is fast and accurate. “So you can imagine that the first time I put my phone down and the AI was working flawlessly from start to finish, I was super proud. But I still get that feeling every time we successfully roll out a new AI exercise or feature.”

As Head of AI, Joseph currently manages six developers who constantly strive to make the JOGO app even better. “Every two weeks, we have a meeting in which we define what we need in the app and how we can realize that. For example, for a jumping jack exercise, we need to think about how the AI will recognize a player doing a proper jumping jack and program it. So I support my team in that and check if their codes are working. Luckily, we created not only a powerful AI but also a proper framework to work on. As a result, experienced developers can easily make a new AI exercise per week.”

“Besides that, a lot of work goes into testing the AI exercises”, Joseph continues. “It’s vital that the system scores a well-performed exercise but even more important that it doesn’t count a poorly performed one. That’s something we want to avoid at all costs.”

As one of the team’s first members, Joseph saw JOGO grow heavily over the last year. “The difference between one year ago and now is massive. Back then, if you showed the AI a picture of a ball, it would think it was an apple. Now you can do all kinds of different training exercises with it. We even help players train their cognitive skills.”

“Huh, you in a football startup?”

JOGO is all about revolutionizing the world of (youth) football, so what’s Joseph’s link with the beautiful game? “I played football myself but was never a star”, says Joseph with a sense of understatement. “In that light, it’s funny I’m currently part of the football world. You wouldn’t believe how often I hear, “Huh, you in a football startup? That’s strange!” from old football friends. But I always found football a fascinating game. I’m a great fan of sport and games in general.”

Joseph is into fitness, running but especially bouldering, a form of free climbing mostly performed on small (artificial) rock walls. “It was one of the first things that were possible in corona times, so when a friend asked me to join him, I thought why not give it a shot. Since then, our group has grown to five people, and we’re bouldering fanatically a few times a week. Nowadays, it’s as much a social as physical activity. We will run a Mud Run of 16 kilometers with the same group to check if we’re actually fit. That’s also why I picked up running, haha.”

Besides all this, Joseph also developed a love for board games over the past years. “My old housemate is to blame for that, he owned a big closet full of board games, and he whets my appetite for it. So it became a habit to have a board game night every time we had friends over, something I still love to do now and then. I especially love to play strategic games to nag and tease people in a joyful way, such as Rising Sun. It suits my personality.”

Ambitions

Except for finishing the Mud Run and owning his own Tesla (“maybe when JOGO rounds up another investment round, haha”), Joseph’s ambitions are primarily work-related. He wants to create the best AI team and deliver quality to make the JOGO app even better. “I want to build an app that makes it difficult to stop sporting instead of an app that makes it hard to keep sporting, something you see in a lot of fitness apps. That’s why we’re working on a feature I would like to call the Netflix module, where after a player finishes his exercise after a few seconds, another one is selected. That should create a more competitive experience and push players to keep going and get better!”

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