Game, set and chatbot: Wimbledon is introducing artificial intelligence-powered commentary to its coverage this year.
The All England Club has teamed up with tech group IBM to offer AI-generated audio commentary and captions in its online highlights videos.
The service will be available on the Wimbledon app and website and will be separate to the BBC’s coverage for the 3 July-16 July tournament. It will use IBM’s watsonx AI platform, which has been trained in the “unique language of tennis” with the help of the All England Club. The club already uses IBM’s AI technology to provide features such as its player power index, which analyses player performance.
The coverage will also include AI-powered analysis of singles draws, examining how favourable a player’s path to the final might be.
“This new insight will help tennis fans to uncover anomalies and potential surprises in the singles draw, which would not be apparent by looking only at the players’ ranking,” said IBM.
Data, such as tracking data for the ball, tracking data for the players and the type of shots the players make from different parts of the court, is collected from a variety of sources around the court. It will then be fed into IBM’s platform, where it will be processed by the company’s AI models before ultimately being fed to a chatbot-style system that produces natural language commentary, specifically fine-tuned in the language of tennis and Wimbledon. That commentary can also be handed on to a second text-to-speech AI to turn it into audio commentary in near-real-time.
IBM said the move was a step towards generating AI commentary on full matches. The European broadcasting union announced this month that the cloned voice of the commentator Hannah England will be used to provide commentary for the European Athletics Championships. England’s voice will be used to replicate the content of the event’s live blog for commentary on the European Athletics YouTube channel.
Watson, IBM’s branding for its suite of AI tools, made headlines more than a decade ago for playing – and winning – a game of the American TV show Jeopardy!, where contestants answer general knowledge questions with peculiar phrasings. At the time, the system was groundbreaking for its ability to understand spoken queries including “Vedic, dating back at least 4,000 years, is the earliest dialect of this classical language of India”, and to buzz and respond in real time with the correct answer – in this case, “What is Sanskrit?”