IBM Creates New Fan Experiences for Spectator-less US Open
IBM, the digital partner of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) for 29 years, announced innovative new fan experiences leveraging AI underpinned by hybrid cloud technologies that will enable millions of fans around the world to experience the excitement of a tennis Grand Slam US Open, the first ever without fans on-site.
A recent IBM sponsored survey of 2000 U.S. sports fans highlighted the importance of digital experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly half (48%) of sports fans who responded think having an interactive digital experience, (streaming, video content, highlights, stats, etc.) has become more important since the coronavirus outbreak. Specifically, younger generations have a greater desire for digital experiences, with Gen Z (64%) and Millennials (61%) saying it has become "more important."
In partnership with the USTA, IBM developed three unique and new tennis-based digital experiences. Two of the new solutions are based on Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities from IBM Watson, pulling from a variety of data sets and running workloads on multiple clouds. At IBM, NLP is critical to AI for business because it enables interpretation of the trends and insights hidden within large amounts of data, including charts, tables, PDFs, images and more. The new solutions were developed by iX, one of the world's largest digital design agencies, and are available on Official US Open platforms, including USOpen.org and the US Open app. A team of iX experts in design and technology collaborated virtually with the USTA digital team, utilizing the IBM Garage Methodology to co-create the new fan experiences and fast-track their deployment.
To give fans a way to engage remotely in iconic sports rivalries, IBM will facilitate several debates among fans on USOpen.org. Starting with a question on hot tennis topics such as "Is Billie Jean King the most influential tennis player in history?", IBM will use the NLP capabilities in Watson Discovery to analyze millions of news and sports sources for insights. That unstructured data will be analyzed, summarized and ultimately delivered as pro and con arguments. Fans will also be able to share their opinions on the debates, and engage on topics they are passionate about.
Fans can become instant "experts" about the players and the tournament match-ups with new AI-powered insights ahead of each match. Match Insights with Watson Discovery uses NLP technology to search for and understand millions of articles, blogs and thought leaders leading into a match, to gather the most relevant information. The solution uses Natural Language Generation technology to translate structured data, like statistics from prior matches, into narrative form, so fans can get fact-based insights on the players and their opponents ahead of match play.
Among the challenges the USTA faced this year was how to recreate the sound of fans inside the stadium. IBM leveraged its AI Highlights technology to recreate crowd sounds gleaned from hundreds of hours of video footage captured during last years' tournament. In past years, AI Highlights used Watson to digest video footage and rank the excitement level of each clip to compile a highlight reel in near-real time and classify specific crowd reactions, including the crowd roar, to give each clip a crowd reaction score. This insight will be used this year to dynamically serve up those sounds based on similar play from last year. The AI Sounds tools will be available to the production teams in-stadium and at ESPN.