Wimbledon serves up AI to enhance the fan experience

By Joanna Elliott, Junior Account Manager

The Pimms has been poured and the British strawberries and cream bulk bought – it can only mean one thing. Wimbledon is here!

Image credit: Sky Sports

Each year the tennis tournament partners with technology giant IBM to explore the latest in technological innovation and help differentiate Wimbledon from other tennis events around the world.  Previously this has included an AI bot on the Wimbledon app so fans can get answers to all their Wimbledon related questions; and automated video highlights delivered to fans watching from the comfort of their sofa. This year is no different with a host of new AI-based systems to the Wimbledon bunker.

One of the most interesting of the new technological advances being used at the event is an AI-powered machine which uses visual recognition technology to capture players’ reactions and then instantly clips highlights for viewers to watch at the end of the game. With just under twenty courts and up to four matches per court per day, hundreds of hours of footage are produced, which would typically take editing teams a vast number of hours to compile into highlights packages.

Known for his intense and dramatic facial expressions (and of course his tennis playing abilities…), Novak Djokovic’s face is likely to provide a great opportunity for the technology to showcase its abilities. The technology can pick up a celebration from a fist pump to the crowd’s celebratory roar, examining body language, gestures and facial expressions to automatically clip that point in the game. Each clip is then ranked based on crowd excitement and player gestures, enabling the team of 180 people in Wimbledon’s AI bunker to automatically generate the best of the highlights in around two minutes.

The highlights will be posted across digital platforms including Twitter and the Wimbledon app, meaning that whether you are a fan waiting overnight in a queue for tickets; or wanting to keep up to date with the matches while you sit at your office desk – you can be in the loop with the best moments.

This year Wimbeldon organisers have really focused on trying to understand what fans want from the sport and how they can enhance the viewing experience – for as broad an audience as possible. As a member of the public, it can often be difficult to grasp the real world uses and the benefits that AI and other emerging technologies can bring into our day-to-day lives, but the IBM Watson and Wimbledon partnership is a great example of how AI can be used to bring us what we want in an improved, more efficient, and effective way.