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US Open tennis uses IBM AI to create video highlights

Fans of the US Open are able to access match highlights provided by IBM's Watson artificial intelligence system

The US Open tennis tournament is using IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence (AI) software to provide fans with automated video match highlights.

IBM has developed a tool, known as Cognitive Highlights, as part of its new Watson Media applications. The system can analyse various aspects of the match video footage, such as the reaction of the players and the crowd, to identify which parts of the match are the most important. The aim is to help the video production team, which otherwise has to manage camera shots from multiple courts and manually select highlights.

Event organiser, the United States Tennis Association (USTA), is sharing the videos with fans in several ways, including posting the main highlights from the day on its Facebook page. Viewers can also see the footage on a player’s profile, through the IBM-designed digital platform, and receive push notifications.

This is the latest implementation of the highlights system after IBM tested it in the 2017 Masters and Wimbledon tennis tournaments. At Wimbledon, the company used AI for the highlights but also to aggregate statistics about the match as part of its SlamTracker analysis platform, which provides data such as the speed of the game and baseline proximity.

IBM also created a system for the tournament that helps fans to gain a better understanding of what makes a “great” tennis player. This uses AI to gather and analyse significant amounts of data on players’ performance in pressurised scenarios, such as stamina, adapting to an opponent and more.

Video content

According to a statement from IBM, the successful trials of the highlights system convinced the supplier to make it commercially available as part of a new offering called IBM Watson Media. This group of applications is targeted at companies that make extensive use of video content.

“The US Open is packed with so much action across so many courts that even the fastest video team is challenged to keep pace with what's happening,” said Noah Syken, IBM vice president of sports and entertainment partnerships.

“To meet that challenge, Watson is now watching the matches alongside the USTA to help bring fans closer to the best moments across the courts shortly after they happen. We're seeing this technology come to life through tennis, but the entire IBM Watson Media portfolio has the potential to impact many industries.”

Watson Media has scope to be used in further areas, for example with the incorporation of speech-to-text to enable closed captioning in videos. It will be available for companies to buy in the IBM Marketplace later this month.

Watson will also use AI to help visitors at the US Open with its Cognitive Concierge service. This is an in-app chatbot where users can ask a question about scores, transportation, scheduling or dining. It can also provide a venue map to help them navigate.

Kirsten Corio, USTA managing director of ticket sales, hospitality and digital strategy said: "An afternoon or evening at the US Open, especially for first time visitors, has really never been easier to enjoy. Watson's capabilities within the US Open app will help our fans plan ahead, move around the grounds at their own pace, and always know where they are and where they want to go.”

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