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AI-powered commentary is coming to next month’s Wimbledon

Sports commentators who thought they were safe from the ever-expanding tentacles of generative AI should think again.

In a first for professional tennis, and possibly the entire sports world, this year’s Wimbledon Tennis Championships will deploy an AI-powered commentator for all of its video highlights.

The new feature is powered by IBM’s WatsonX AI platform and will provide audio commentary of key moments in all of the matches, together with captions that can be toggled on or off.

“The tool has been designed to give fans a more insightful experience when catching up on key moments from matches with highlights videos on the Wimbledon app and,” IBM said.

“Its introduction this year is a step towards making commentary available in an exciting way for matches outside of Wimbledon’s show courts, which already have live human commentary.”

To build the new feature, experts from IBM worked with Wimbledon’s All England Club to train the AI in the “unique language of tennis.” The computer giant said the resulting commentary will offer “varied sentence structure and vocabulary to make the clips informative and engaging.”

The idea of AI-generated commentary sounds intriguing, and it’ll certainly be interesting to hear how it sounds and how well it captures the essence of the sport. The fact that it’s being used for recorded highlights will be reassuring for most professional commentators, but perhaps it won’t be too long before a more advanced AI tool has the power to observe, analyze, and commentate in real time.

At this year’s Wimbledon, which starts on July 3, tennis fans will also be able to try IBM’s AI Draw Analysis feature that analyzes existing data to produce a statistic defining how favorable the path to the final might be for each player in the Wimbledon singles draw.

IBM has worked with Wimbledon for a number of years, using its technology to bring new and engaging features to the popular tennis tournament. Last year, for example, it launched a feature called Win Factors, offering fans a greater understanding of the elements affecting player performance, such as court surface, ATP/WTA rankings, head-to-head history, ratio of games won, recent performance, yearly success, and media punditry.

It also introduced Have Your Say, an interactive prediction tool that allows users to submit their own forecasts for match results and then compare them with the aggregated predictions of other fans as well as IBM’s AI-powered Likelihood to Win forecast.

IBM recently revealed that it could replace as many as 7,800 jobs at its company with AI and automation over the next five years, though similar transitions to the technology are expected throughout many industries as AI continues to improve.

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Trevor Mogg
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