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Few sporting events are as steeped in tradition as Wimbledon, the Grand Slam tennis tournament taking place at the All England Club through July 19. Look past your cup of Pimm’s and the British royalty in attendance, and you’ll note that Wimbledon is also a highly innovative sporting event.

This year, Wimbledon and IBM celebrate 30 years of partnership, and IBM’s contributions have enhanced the tournament experience for both players and fans:

  • Wimbledon uses IBM Watson artificial intelligence to efficiently generate highlight reels from matches. With 18 courts and hundreds of hours of play, AI is necessary to produce highlights while they’re still relevant. Watson analyzes video footage for crowd noise and movement to determine which clips are most exciting. However, this year the AI has been re-calibrated to “smooth” itself for exuberant fan bases and overly expressive players, giving everyone an equal chance at the spotlight.
  • Since 1991, IBM has powered technology analyzing ball speed. This technology has evolved to the point that players and coaches receive a data analysis of play within 20 minutes of the end of each match. Forty-eight tennis experts recruited and trained by IBM capture and analyze the data within minutes.
  • This year, IBM and Wimbledon have partnered with Amazon and Google to develop voice-command functionality using the code word “Wimbledon” for Alexa and Google Home.

Other innovative enhancements

Wimbledon has also implemented technology from other tech giants, including the Hawk-eye camera system developed by Sony. Hawk-eye uses multiple cameras to track balls to millimeter accuracy. 

However, the system is not without controversy; the system’s 2.2 mm margin of error came into question during a 2007 match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

No matter how high-tech Wimbledon becomes, tennis purists can rest easy that players are still wearing white and they’re still playing on grass — though even the growth of that grass is now tied to data analysis.

Photo: Leticia Lorenzo S / Shutterstock

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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