AI Innovating the World's Most Prestigious Tennis Tournament: Wimbledon

It’s that time of the year for one of the UK’s biggest sporting events: Wimbledon. With a rapidly growing fan base with over 6 and a half million watching just the third round match between Novak Djokovic vs Kyle Edmund. However, with an expanding audience comes problems such as how to create video content and highlights that are available almost instantaneously to the fan base that fails to book the limited tickets. The owners of Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has partnered with  US tech giant IBM to expand their AI called Watson to solve this problem.

We asked ourselves how do we create video content that’s available really quickly?
— Mr Seddon, head of IBM’s AI unit at Wimbledon

Watson works by using microphones in the umpire’s chair to measure the crowd noise as this is thought to be proportional to the excitement level. Watson also uses visual image recognition technology to capture players’ reactions to further indicate the excitement levels at that specific moment. Watson then ranks each moment based on crowd excitement and player gestures to find the best moments to use in highlights all within two minutes. This creates a far more efficient and unbiased method rather than using a digital editor to scroll through hours of footage and choose the highlights. Additionally, Watson is currently installed throughout 10 courts to monitor up to 10 hours of play a day over 13 days. 

That’s an awful lot of video content and it’s a lot of digital editorial time. So we actually free up time for the digital editors to go and create other content
— Mr Seddon, head of IBM’s AI unit at Wimbledon
Watson Analysing the Excitement Levels, Source: IBM Website

Watson Analysing the Excitement Levels, Source: IBM Website

Watson is still currently in its early stages and so does not currently lead to an automatic publishing process but instead, it creates a package which the editor can choose. However, Watson is constantly evolving and recently has been able to differentiate between different crowds. For example, a highly passionate crowd favourite could generate more excitement than a more reserved yet equally skilled opponent and so Watson factors this in when choosing highlights.

AI is further innovating Wimbledon by introducing AI called ‘Ask Fred’ which reinvents how guests experience Wimbledon. Inspired by British Tennis legend Fred Perry, Ask Fred has many interactive features such as providing information about dining options, an interactive map of the venue and answering a wide range of questions from fans visiting the event.

Key Features of Ask Fred, Source: Wimbledon Website

Key Features of Ask Fred, Source: Wimbledon Website

Alexandra Willis, head of communications summaries Wimbledon’s current viewpoint perfectly:

What’s been the most seismic shift in the past three to four years is making a conscious decision to say that if we do not evolve our traditions and innovate then we will be obsolete
— Alexandra Wills, head of communications