Wimbledon 2018: The AI innovations spicing up the world’s oldest tennis tournament

As Wimbledon rolls around again, announcing new features for SW19 visitors and viewers at home, SportsPro takes a look at some of the new tech set to make an appearance this year.

Wimbledon 2018: The AI innovations spicing up the world’s oldest tennis tournament

Wimbledon may be tennis’ oldest tournament and whilst the competition has prided itself on maintaining its traditions, recently, the Grand Slam has modernised and moved into new markets.

With the help of tech giant IBM, which serves as the official information technology supplier and consultant to the All England Lawn and Tennis Club (AELTC), Wimbledon began adopting artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in 2015, and is now leading the way in harnessing giant data sets to better inform, immerse and engage fans.

IBM’s AI system Watson uses 22 years of unstructured data to analyse an estimated 53,713,514 tennis data points and pulls out trends and useful information, able to adapt the rules it uses as more information becomes available.

More than half a million fans will gather to consume 320,000 glasses of Pimm’s, 29,000 bottles of champagne, in order to wash down 28,000 kilos of strawberries and cream during July’s tennis showpiece. As well as this culinary feast, however, visitors to the AELTC as well as an estimated 70 million online fans, will be treated to a showcase of artificial intelligence innovations, which SportsPro takes a look at.

AI-generated, automated video highlights

With an average of three matches per court, per day, video from Wimbledon’s matches can quickly add up to hundreds of hours of footage, which could take hours to pull together into highlight packages. However, IBM’s AI learning system Watson has been taught to better recognise player emotion so as to provide enhanced AI-powered automated video highlights.

Watson auto-curates the 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. Additionally, the ability to access the content at a clips level will allow the Wimbledon editorial team to maximise their output within their allowed rights footage.

AI will be used to generate automated video highlights

The Wimbledon Messenger

A social assistant for those off-site, the Wimbledon Messenger uses the Watson Assistant chatbot capability and is delivered within Facebook’s Messenger service. 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 also complements 'Fred,' Wimbledon's visitor voice-activated in-app AI assistant, which was launched in 2017 and can help fans find their way around the venue and answer a range of questions. The mobile app serves up information on dining options, feature a natural language interface and provides an interactive map of the venue.

Fans can use the AI-powered chatbot service and find answers to questions through a voice-activated app called Fred 

Upgraded digital platform

IBM has rebuilt the Grand Slam’s digital platform 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. The AELTC says this is an investment for the future ahead of the launch of Wimbledon Broadcast Services, when Wimbledon itself will become the host broadcaster of The Championships.

AI highlights dashboard

A new editorial dashboard 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 match and leverage this content across digital channels.

A range of analysis powered by AI will assist the AELTC digital team throughout the tournament 

AI play analysis

The upgraded ‘IBM SlamTracker’ online portal provides alternative views to different types of fan, ranging from high level overviews, point-by-point commentary of more detailed analysis. Real-time data will be integrated from multiple sources including courtside statisticians, chair umpires, radar guns, ball position, player location and Twitter for social sentiment.

The SlamTracker works by analysing the players' cognitive ‘keys’ to the match to understand which tactics to look for in a head-to-head game. 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. An additional feature will include 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.

AI-generated art

IBM’s AI system Watson will be helping dismantle the last perceived bastion of human exclusively of creativity and artistic judgment when it will be used to create ‘art’. The official Wimbledon poster celebrating 150 years of the AELTC is being produced using a mosaic approach drawn from the historic photographic archive of the club, by the AI.