Wimbledon Adding AI Commentary to Matches

Tournament teams with IBM for AI-powered chat on highlight reels
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2023 7:00 PM CDT
Wimbledon Adding AI Commentary to Matches
Switzerland's Roger Federer kisses the trophy after defeating Rafael Nadal to win his fifth consecutive Men's Singles Championship at Wimbledon in 2007.   (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus, File)

Wimbledon's first championship was held in 1877, and today it remains not only one of tennis' oldest tournaments but a vibrant piece of British living history. So the Guardian reporting that artificial intelligence is entering the chat as part of match commentary at Wimbledon may be somewhat surprising. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club—the official name of the private club on the site of the Wimbledon Championships—is partnering with IBM to provide "AI-generated audio commentary and captions in its online highlights videos," per the Guardian. The feature won't be associated with TV coverage of the July 3-16 tournament—at least this year—but tennis fans will be able find it on Wimbledon's website and associated app, reports CNN.

"I see AI as very much complementing the human element, rather than replacing," says Kevin Farrar, IBM's head of sports partnerships, per ESPN. "You can't replace John McEnroe doing commentary. That human element always needs to be there. It's very much supplementing and complementing." ChatGPT is—at this point—shorthand for AI, but IBM is providing its WatsonX AI, which was trained with the All England Club's help on tennis-related language. WatsonX is a more advanced version of IBM's Watson, which famously defeated chess legend Garry Kasparov several times in 1997. This version of Watson was developed to tackle more complex problems in the health care, finance, and cybersecurity industries.

Jobs assigned to WatsonX will include tracking multiple data streams, including player information and shots from various positions on the court. The Guardian says the platform will ingest all this data, process it with AI, then delivered to viewers as a chatbot using "natural language commentary." The tech will be used on all video highlights packages, according to an IBM news release, which notes that it will include "draw analysis," an assessment of how favorable each player's path is to the final round. (More Wimbledon stories.)

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