Wimbledon’s use of AI to engage fans

At one o’clock this coming Monday, Roger Federer will walk out on to Centre Court to begin the defence of his Wimbledon Championship.  I particularly remember his semi-final match last year.  I was in the bunker where I runs the technology for Wimbledon, and about eight minutes after the match had finished, Wimbledon had produced a two-minute video highlights package of the match.  This was the first time that a sports highlights had been generated automatically.

The rise of video

Wimbledon continues to extend its appeal to a time-poor, younger demographic, and sharing short videos is a key element of the strategy to drive engagement on its digital platforms.  Video views were up 75% year-on-year to 201 million in 2017, of which 14.4 million were such match highlights.  Automatic generation accelerates production so that Wimbledon has first mover advantage, and it enables scale.

IMG_1120 29June

It is achieved using artificial intelligence (AI): learning player reactions in analysis of video, detecting crowd reactions by applying AI to audio, and fusing both with statistical analysis of the data to identify the most important points in the match.  Meta data is used to generate captions that tell the story of the match in the highlights package which Wimbledon then shares with fans through its digital platforms and on social media.

AI becomes the artist

This is an example of technology innovation using AI, Cloud and Data at Wimbledon – 2018 is the twenty-ninth year of IBM’s partnership – that I described yesterday at the Cloud and Data Summit held at Landing Forty Two in London.

Cloud and Data Summit

I opened my talk with a video of the poster that Wimbledon created using AI to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC).  AI has become the artist to create a poster.  It looks like a water colour but is actually a mosaic made up of 9,000 images.  These were selected from over 300,000 images in the AELTC’s archive using artificial intelligence to match image recognised content and colour tone.  You too can watch how 150 years of archive photography has been used to stitch together a single beautiful image.

Social engagement

I told the story of data, how it is captured courtside by tennis professionals who can quickly read a match.  They aim to accurately capture all the data associated with every point within a second.  It’s about making data simple and building a trusted foundation that allows insights to be scaled on demand.

Wimbledon combines such insights with analysis of conversations and what is trending about the Championships on social media.  It uses Watson AI to exploit 23 years of articles, press and blogs – 11.2 million words have been analysed – so that it can share facts, video clips and stories with fans in the moment.

Digital resilience

IBM runs Wimbledon’s applications in the Cloud.  Four IBM public cloud and three private cloud data centres around the world are used, offering elasticity and resilience.  The software-defined operating environment allows capacity to scaled up quickly for The Championships.  Easy access to Wimbledon’s digital platforms is sustained through huge fluctuations in demand, such as a spike in interest in an epic match.  Capacity is quickly deprovisioned when no longer required to optimise the cost of infrastructure.

Over 200 million security events were halted during The Championships in 2017.  IBM correlates and normalises security event data to prioritise them and remove false positives.  Security analysts make use of threat intelligence from IBM’s X-Force research on vulnerabilities and malicious IPs, etc.  A knowledge graph is generated to help security analysts understand what is happening.  Watson for Cyber Security offers assistance through its application of AI on the corpus of security research, information on events, security notices, blog posts and more.  The result is a reduction in the time taken to analyse a threat from sixty minutes to one.

AI assistant

Wimbledon launched “Fred” last year, an AI assistant that helps visitors prepare for and make the most of The Championships.  This year, Wimbledon continues to put content where its audience is.  “Fred” powers the new Wimbledon Messenger, a service for millions of other fans available through Facebook Messenger.

Wimbledon’s digital platforms provide the window into The Championships for many fans.  A fabulous experience is enabled by AI that is powered by the IBM Cloud to exploit data.  Experience a little of this for yourself by downloading the Wimbledon app or visiting wimbledon.com/mobile.


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