The dominant impression left with those taking IBM’s technology tour at Wimbledon this week is how artificial intelligence is used to enhance fans’ experiences of The Championships through automation and scale. The magnitude of what it takes to amplify match data and content out to millions of fans is always a revelation. This spans drawing fans to Wimbledon’s own digital platforms, supporting its media partners, through to providing a valuable service to the players.
AI and Augmented Reality
The Championships Poster for 2018 applies artificial intelligence (AI) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. AI is used not only to select 8,400 photographs that make up the mosaic from the archive of over 300,000, but also to match the colour, tone and content of the picture used in each tile to the part of the picture it represents. The reaction when I enlarge a section of the mosaic, such as the umbrellas by the umpire’s chair which is made of photographs of umbrellas, is amazement.
There are various pictures displayed around the grounds when visitors can experience augmented reality (AR), including the mosaic poster. Their locations are indicated on the map in the mobile app. I show how you can tap on the ‘AR Experience’ tile in the app. The camera recognises the picture, and in the case of the poster, the app launches the video showing how it was made.
You can experience augmented reality for yourself using Wimbledon’s phone app by pointing the camera at the poster on wimbledon.com.
Wimbledon Interactive is a system running on 400 press desks at The Championships that contains 2 million pages of data. It is only available on site, and I explore the wealth of data of current matches and Wimbledon’s history all the way back to 1877 on my tours. IBM employs tennis players to read matches and record the data associated with every point accurately within a second. This trust in data is essential for amplification out to fans on Wimbledon’s own digital platforms and by the world’s media.
Players from the six show courts receive point-by-point video analysis about twenty minutes after the match completes to help them prepare for the next round. This is always a highlight on my tours. In addition, IBM has a data science team on site to assist Wimbledon and the media with access the best possible information, including bespoke reports for any angle a journalist might want to investigate.
One example of how data is made available to fans is the tactical Keys to the Match delivered in the IBM SlamTracker on wimbledon.com. They are the top three areas that each player in a match should focus on to maximise their chances of winning. Keys are custom generated from analysis of individual player data, including the 4.8 million tennis data points collected at last year’s Championships. Analytics have been further honed using ball placement and player movement insights. Fans are able to monitor players’ performance against their keys as the matches unfolds.
IBM uses artificial intelligence to automatically generate a video highlights package within five minutes of a match finishing. Clients are amazed that the speed. Video analysis of player gestures and detection of their emotions is combined with audio analysis of the crowd’s reaction, e.g. clapping and cheering, plus analytical insight from the data collected. The points with the highest excitement score are assembled, along with captions generated from meta data that tell the story of the match, for Wimbledon to share with fans on social media and its digital platforms.
Wimbledon has become the host broadcaster of The Championships this year with the launch of Wimbledon Broadcast Services. It is indicative of Wimbledon’s shift to become more of a data-driven media organisation rather than simply global sporting event – this digital transformation is food for thought for those joining my tours. Despite this approach, Wimbledon is permitted one hour of tennis action coverage from each day so as to not undermine its media partners. The digital team uses the excitement level calculated from analysis and AI to quickly search for the points of greatest interest. This enables the team to optimise this hour to maximise fan engagement by easily identifying and sharing the moments that matter most.
Taking Wimbledon to its fans
Wimbledon aims to be where its fans are. In 2018, it is widening its appeal to those that use messaging. The Wimbledon messenger can be accessed from within Facebook Messenger to provide up to date scores on matches, monitor the progress of your favourite players, and access news. It also provides assistance to all fans in natural language using an AI chatbot building on the ‘Fred’ in-app service that was introduced last year.
You can access the latest information from within Messenger by searching for Wimbledon on Facebook.
I found that all the clients that I took on tours this week, technical or not, are impressed with the scale, reach and focus of the Wimbledon’s digital operation. Find out more about the technology at ibm.com/wimbledon.