IBM is turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate crowds in the first-ever, spectator-less US Open.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, like many sports, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has had to adapt to the safety measures required to contain the virus. As the USTA’s digital partner for 29 years, IBM set to work recreating the stadium experience using AI.
“Among the challenges the USTA faced this year was how to recreate the sound of fans inside the stadium,” reads the blog post. “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.”
In addition to the stadium experience, IBM is using AI to help fans better connect with the experience. For example, Match Insights with Watson Discovery uses natural language processing (NLP) and natural language generation to take statistics and other structured data and translate it into narrative form. This will help fans get up-to-speed and become “experts” on the players and matchups.
“COVID-19 brought disruption to sports as a whole, and the ability of fans to experience live sporting events has been heavily impacted in 2020. At the same time, the pandemic accelerated the need for engaging technologies using AI and underpinned by a scalable hybrid cloud,” said Noah Syken, Vice President of Sports & Entertainment Partnerships, IBM. “As the technology partner to the USTA, we transformed our offerings to meet tennis fans where they are this year – experiencing the sport through the US Open digital properties everywhere.”