Beyond the court: How IBM is powering first-ever spectator-less US Open

By: |
September 2, 2020 7:40 AM

The tennis tournament will have new fan experiences using AI and hybrid cloud

In partnership with the USTA, IBM developed three unique and new tennis-based digital experiences. In partnership with the USTA, IBM developed three unique and new tennis-based digital experiences.

COVID-19 has brought sports events to a halt this year, or at the best allowing sportspersons to play to empty stadiums. This has accelerated the need for advanced technologies to engage with fans everywhere in this new virtual-only environment. IBM, the digital partner of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), has announced new fan experiences leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) underpinned by hybrid cloud technologies that will enable millions of fans around the world to experience the excitement and vibrant debate surrounding the iconic tennis Grand Slam event, the US Open, the first ever without fans on-site.

In partnership with the USTA, IBM developed three unique and new tennis-based digital experiences. Two of the new solutions are based on Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities from IBM Watson, pulling from a variety of data sets and running workloads on multiple clouds. The new solutions and the technology powering them include:

Open questions with Watson Discovery: To allow fans to engage remotely in iconic sports rivalries, IBM will facilitate debates among fans on Starting with a question on hot tennis topics such as “Is Billie Jean King the most influential tennis player in history?”, IBM will use the NLP capabilities in Watson Discovery to analyse millions of news and sports sources for insights. That unstructured data will be analysed, summarised and ultimately delivered as pro and con arguments using IBM Research technology.

Match insights with Watson Discovery: Fans can become instant “experts”on the players and the tournament match-ups with new AI-powered insights. Match Insights with Watson Discovery uses NLP technology to search for and understand millions of articles, blogs and thought leaders leading into a match, to gather the most relevant information. The solution uses Natural Language Generation technology from IBM Research to translate structured data—like statistics from prior matches—into narrative form.

AI Sounds: IBM leveraged its AI Highlights technology to recreate crowd sounds gleaned from hundreds of hours of video footage captured during last years’ tournament. In past years, AI Highlights used Watson to digest video footage and rank the excitement level of each clip to compile a highlight reel in near-real time and classify specific crowd reactions, including the crowd roar, to give each clip a crowd reaction score. This insight will be used this year to dynamically serve up those sounds based on similar play from last year. The AI Sounds tools will be available to the production teams in-stadium and at ESPN.

The US Open runs from August 31 through September 13. To see the technology in action, visit, or on your mobile device via the US Open app, available in the Apple and Android app stores.

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