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Wimbledon to use AI commentary at upcoming championships

The All England Club has teamed up with tech group IBM to leverage the boom in large language models such as ChatGPT to cover matches that would ordinarily be watched in silence.

Although Wimbledon has a reputation for favouring tradition over change, it’s set to follow a global trend this year in embracing artificial intelligence (AI) at the upcoming championships.

Teaming up with tech group IBM to offer AI-generated audio commentary and captions in its online highlights videos, the All England Club (AELTC) will deliver John McEnroe’s trademark cutting analysis via digital alternatives.

The service will be available on the Wimbledon app and website and be separate to the BBC’s tournament coverage in July.

It will use IBM’s watsonx platform, which has been trained in the ‘unique language of tennis’ with the help of the AELTC and has previously been used to provide features such as its player power index, which analyses performance.

Artificial Intelligence Commentator To Make Debut At Wimbledon

Building on these foundational models and with the aim of making it sound as human as possible, IBM has successfully created a narration with varied sentence structure and vocabulary.

Another feature it’s offering alongside this is ‘draw analysis,’ which provides fans with an idea of the difficulty of each player’s route to the final.

The metric takes into account more obvious indicators such as world ranking and seeding, while also factoring in analysis of historic matchups between players or those between similar playing styles, recent injuries, grass record, and other potential anomalies.

According to IBM, it’s the first time such a stat has been created for the sport.

IBM Brings Generative AI Commentary and AI Draw Analysis to the Wimbledon Digital Experience | New Products Services | wvnews.com

‘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,’ says Kevin Farrar, head of sports partnerships at IBM UK.

‘You couldn’t have failed to see the buzz around large language models and generative AI at the moment and this is a space we’ve been working on as well. This is a great way to make those highlights more accessible and enable fans to enjoy them in a different way.’

But how exactly does the AI-generated audio commentary work?

In short, IBM collects all the data from Wimbledon’s matches, tracking the ball, player, and the type of shots made from different parts of the court.

Wimbledon Championships | 🎾 Tennis | Spectator info

It will then be entered into watsonx, where it will be processed by the company’s AI models before ultimately being fed to a chatbot-style system that produces the fine-tuned commentary.

That commentary can also be handed on to a second text-to-speech AI to turn it into audio in near-real-time.

‘This is a stepping stone again on a journey where ultimately we would like to be able to generate AI commentary on full matches,’ continues Kevin.

‘You can see in the future, you could train it in different styles and it opens up other possibilities in the future, around different languages, different voices. This is a step on that journey.’

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