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IBM brings AI-powered highlights tool to US Open tennis players

IBM is bringing its AI-powered Watson platform to the US Open tennis players to provide them with insight into their past performances

US Open tennis players will get insight into their past match performances using an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered system from IBM, as part of its 25-year partnership with the tournament.

The United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) digital team announced in September 2017 it would use IBM’s Watson platform to bring AI-powered highlights for fans. It is now using the same technology for those on the court.

The AI in IBM Watson analyses game footage and collates the key points, which the coaches can use to build reports on the players’ performance.

USTA’s general manager of player development, Martin Blackman, said the technology improves the speed of the analysis process, freeing up the valuable time of the tournament’s participants.

“Coaches and tennis players look to video as a useful resource that helps to evaluate players and develop scouting reports before and during tournaments,” he said.

“Analysing footage of previous matches is normally very time-intensive, involving many hours of manual ‘match-tagging’. Video tagging that used to take hours can now take Watson minutes to execute.”

IBM is also making further improvements to its highlights service for fans by analysing all the tennis shots and presenting the shot of the day. This judgement is based on the crowd’s reaction and will come as part of its AI Highlights dashboard.

Additionally, the AI will look at all the matches played on one of the seven courts and suggest key shots as part of its AI Highlights builder, which is again designed to speed up the process for the USTA digital team.

It is hoped the partnership will help improve the supporters’ experience by introducing an AI chatbot know as Virtual Concierge to Facebook Messenger, which can provide score, player and venue information. IBM is also developing its statistics and data platform SlamTracker to include changes in momentum during the match. 

SlamTracker has been used at tennis tournaments for a number of years and is known for collecting a player’s score and analysing millions of data points from previous competitions. It then uses the information to predict what the individual needs to do to win the game. It will continue to provide its analysis, alongside a real-time view of momentum shifts in the game.

IBM’s vice-president of sports and entertainment partnerships, Noah Syken, said these changes will help fans stay up to date over the course of the tournament, which runs from 27 August 2018 to 9 September 2018.

“The US Open offers an enormous amount of tennis across multiple courts over the next two weeks of the tournament. To ensure fans are keeping pace throughout the tournament, IBM’s AI technology will help fans follow matches and navigate their time on the US Open grounds,” he said.

“While we’re seeing this type of technology come to life through tennis, these AI-powered solutions also are affecting many industries.”

IBM is also working with the US Open by providing a cloud infrastructure and using Watson to improve the US Open’s cyber security measures.

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