IBM Watson Gets Emotional—and Artistic—Ahead of Wimbledon

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IBM and Wimbledon logos

Just a week way (starting July 2nd), Wimbledon is once again teaming up with IBM, which is designing an AI and Cloud-based digital platform in which to experience the world’s best tennis players “in their pursuit of greatness.”

The All England Lawn Tennis Club—celebrating its 150th anniversary this year—and IBM, its official tech partner, have raised their game for this year’s tournament. The Watson AI platform had been taught to recognize players’ emotions, which it would combine with an analysis of crowd noise, players’ movements and match data. Getting in touch with its own emotions, Watson also tapped its inner artist and helped design the championship’s 2018 official poster.

IBM is calling this the next phase in the AELTC’s journey, cementing digital as the gateway to their brand with unique data insights and AI solutions to drive fan engagement and business efficiency.

In 2018, “Wimbledon and IBM will put AI to work to change the way fans perceive and enjoy the game of tennis,” according to a press release. “By delivering unique and authentic content, in the moment that it happens, we will reveal new insights into what it takes to deliver the supreme feats of athleticism on court as the players aspire to reach the pinnacle of their sport: to be a Wimbledon Champion.”

Having started to adopt AI technologies in 2015, Wimbledon is now leading the way in harnessing the exponential power of huge sets of data to provide an ever more immersive experience. New for 2018:

IBM Watson created the official 2018 Wimbledon tennis tournament poster

IBM Watson helped Wimbledon create its official 2018 Poster (above). The official Wimbledon poster celebrating 150 years of The All England Lawn Tennis Club has been created using a unique mosaic approach drawn from the entire historic photographic archive of The Club.  The technology behind the Official Championships Poster is Watson Visual Recognition, while the API was used to analyse over 3 TBs of historic photography.

The intuitive drag and drop training tool was used to teach Watson what to look for within the image archive. This takes only a matter of minutes. The poster was divided into specific sections: net, sky, clubhouse roof, ivy etc. Watson sourced the correct images from the entire historic archive and then a further piece of software was created to stitch the images and separate mosaics together.

Enhanced AI-powered automated video highlights for Wimbledon fans. As a learning system, Watson has been taught to better recognise player emotion increasing the quality of the output, while also increasing speed in turnaround time by 15 minutes. AI-powered automated video highlights are generated using IBM Watson and other video and audio technologies to bring to life the most exciting moments of The Championships from the six main Show Courts. With an average of three matches per court, per day, video from the matches can quickly add up to hundreds of hours of footage which could take hours to pull together into highlight packages.

The AI system created by IBM Research scientists and IBM iX consultants auto-curates highlights based on analysis of crowd noise, players’ movements and match data to help simplify the highlight video production process and focus on key moments in the match. This allows the Wimbledon editorial team to scale and accelerate the video production process for highlight packages and expand the number of potential matches that are turned into timely highlight videos for fans to watch and share. In addition, being able to access the content at a clips level will allow the Wimbledon editorial team to maximise their output within their allowed rights footage.

The Wimbledon Messenger, a social assistant for those off-site, will utilize the Watson Assistant chatbot capability and delivered within Facebook Messenger. Expanding on last year’s Wimbledon Messenger bot, this year will put more content into social platforms where fans increasingly engage with their friends. The Bot will allow fans to access tailored information on scores, news and players while driving engagement back to the official platforms. The Wimbledon Messenger experience complements ‘Fred,’ Wimbledon’s in-app AI assistant, launched in 2017 to provide a personalised on-site visitor experience and further enhanced for 2018.

IBM Watson x Wimbledon

IBM iX rebuilt Wimbledon.com to provide content that refreshes dynamically, making the browsing experience more seamless, but also with greater ability to personalise for different audiences. The redesign also allows persistent video viewing to help maximise video use and hero The Wimbledon Channel, Wimbledon’s live video offering. This is not just an investment for 2018, but will allow Wimbledon to deliver ever more engaging experiences in future years. As Wimbledon becomes the host broadcaster of The Championships, with the launch of Wimbledon Broadcast Services, Wimbledon wanted to ensure that digital platforms are equally able to make the most of the rich array of video content being captured and produced. Combined with ever increasing rates of publishing demand and digital trends moving towards “app like” web platforms, a new approach was needed to Wimbledon.com.

IBM x Wimbledon 2018 dashboard

AI highlights dashboard, to further assist the digital team. A new editorial dashboard has been created for the AELTC digital team that will populate in near real-time every shot of a match and its excitement level. The AELTC digital team will be able to view and find the most exciting shot of the day or the match and leverage this content across all their digital channels, including social.

IBM SlamTracker has been redesigned for 2018 to provide alternative views to different types of fan. Whether it’s high level overviews, point by point commentary or more detailed analysis, fans will be encouraged to engage in the in-match experience using different types of media from match highlights to real-time scores to social interactions. That means Wimbledon fans will have an unprecedented level of analysis, insight and engagement as the match unfolds, particularly with mobile devices in mind. Real-time data will be integrated from multiple sources including courtside statisticians, chair umpires, radar guns, ball position, player location and even Twitter for social sentiment.

IBM’s SlamTracker works by analysing the players’ Cognitive “Keys” to the Match to understand which tactics to look for in a head-to-head match. The aim is to reveal the hidden patterns in player and match dynamics, determining the pressure situations and allowing fans to follow their progress against their “keys” in real time—point by point. The Keys to the Match include insights such as pace-of-play, serve placement spread or baseline proximity. The solution also uses Watson APIs to refine and update the player style based on match data. We have also added a feature referred to as “momentum” which will be a visual depiction of a match with an indication of which player has the momentum and how that may have shifted over the course of the match.

During The Championships, IBM, in partnership with the AELTC, successfully delivers everything from IT operations to fan-facing digital properties (including the latest apps and the award-winning Wimbledon website). IBM helps Wimbledon use AI to create content that is exclusive, sets them apart and tells their story. For example, in 2017, over 14m net new video views of Wimbledon AI generated video highlights were watched.

IBM works with the AELTC to deliver everything from design capability (via IBM iX), to building and integrating their latest systems and applications. IBM also ensures the continuous availability and scalability of Wimbledon’s digital properties by securing Wimbledon to the core. For example, during the 2017 Championships IBM detected and blocked over 200 million suspicious security events. IBM has over 200 of its people dedicating their skills and expertise to helping Wimbledon in their pursuit of greatness; delivering award-winning solutions built on years of global sports, media and industry expertise.1

“2018 marks the 150th anniversary of founding of The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, with the first Championships following in 1877. We strive to ensure that our traditions are made relevant in the context of today and are determined not to rest on our laurels,” said Alexandra Willis, Head of Communications, Content & Digital at the AELTC.

“We want to engage with existing as well as new fans around the world, to help them be part of Wimbledon 2018, especially in what will be such a competitive sporting summer. We want to tell the stories of the phenomenal athleticism of our great players, the gladiatorial nature of the matches they play and explain the sporting narratives that will cut through to our audience. IBM is critical to us in helping us place content with fans where they want to consume it and acknowledge the ever-increasing focus on video and new content formats in social media.”

“IBM’s technology innovations are at the heart of our efforts to continuing our journey towards a great digital experience that ensures we connect with our fans across the globe – wherever they may be watching and from whatever device that may be. For example, with help from IBM, we are extending the availability of our ‘Ask Fred” AI assistant into Facebook Messenger, allowing fans to access tailored information on scores, news and players with in a social platform. It’s also fitting that in this, our 150th anniversary year, that we are using AI technology to design our unique celebratory poster. A genuine combination of design and data to provide fans with the unique Wimbledon experience they expect and more. What’s so interesting is how the applications and the role Watson can play seem to expand every year.

“People are judging Wimbledon on the experience they had last month, or even yesterday. Technology plays a really important role in making their digital channels the most engaging place to experience The Championships. Increasingly, the AELTC is embracing the role of AI as being a foundation of that digital experience and strategy,” said Sam Seddon, Wimbledon Client & Programme Executive, IBM.

“The solutions that IBM uses to improve the fan, player and media experience at Wimbledon are the same technologies and solutions that are used to transform industries and professions. Supporting Wimbledon in achieving their mission statement requires constant innovation and transformation to not only meet but exceed their expectations. This is why IBM has been Wimbledon’s technology and innovation partner since 1990.”

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