While you're eyes are locked in on a match on Centre Court at Wimbledon this year, something else will be watching you, too.
IBM Research announced on Tuesday that it is teaming up with IBM IX to bring its new artificial intelligence technology to the tennis courts at Wimbledon this year. After testing the concept at the 2017 Masters golf tournament in April, IBM is taking the AI-powered system to tennis to create "cognitive highlight" reels based on the most exciting moments and shots in the matches each day.
So how does it work? Instead of having a producer in a room select and edit the best highlights from the day's matches, the AI-powered technology will choose them. First, the potential highlights are identified from typical on-court data and statistics, such as number of aces, speed of the ball, breakpoints won and more. The next steps are where the fans can play a role in deciding the clips. The IBM Research team trained the system to recognize crowd cheering, scoring data and players' reactions (based on videos of players' behavior in matches in previous tournaments) using audio and video AI tools. Using all of that info, the system ranks and selects the clips to create the two-minute highlight video, which will be available shortly after the match on Wimbledon's digital channels.
The concept is certainly interesting for Grand Slam tennis, where—especially during the first four days of the tournament—there is so much to follow and so many matches happening all at one time. The "excitement factor" is also intriguing for the tennis majors, because often times a competitive or high-emotion match being played on an outer court doesn't necessarily draw a crowd until the final set or a later point in the match. How will the system analyze a half-empty Court 5 on the second day? Conversely, how will it record a match with a hometown- or fan-favorite player, where the tennis may not be as highlight-worthy but the fans are simply supportive of the players? Or what about the players who talk to themselves or smash a racket after missed points?
Tennis fans watching from around the world will have to wait until July 3 to see how the new technology fares and what it can deliver from the courts at Wimbledon. But for those attending The Championships, be aware: the AI-technology is watching and listening to your every move while you're in the stands sipping on that Pimm's cup.