How Cognitive Highlights is enhancing the coverage of Wimbledon
By James Dielhenn
Last Updated: 03/07/18 11:46am
It can be a head-scrambling process at Wimbledon to keep an eye on 18 tennis courts, all simultaneously featuring action, and trying to piece together the most interesting bits.
So how did Wimbledon's digital channels command 69.9 million views last year, plus 436 million page views (up from 395 million in 2016)? Either the production staff are inhumanely eagle-eyed or another key factor is at play.
The Wimbledon Cognitive Highlights Solution, developed by the event's long-standing technology partner IBM, is a ground-breaking form of Artificial Intelligence that analyses thousands of minutes of match action to create high-quality video content at a remarkable speed and efficiency.
"Wimbledon have been huge innovators for a long time. This is about the engagement of fans," said Paul Ryan, director of Watson, the technology responsible for this transformative way of working.
"Cognitive highlights - how do you rapidly generate relevant and engaging content for fans based on the game in real-time?"
Watson asks questions, discerns patterns, reveals insights and finds answers, according to IBM. A cognitive computing platform, the real brilliance behind Watson is how it compliments the human involvement, rather than trying to replace it.
"It is technology that senses and experiences the world in the same way that humans do - through language, images, sentiment and emotions," Ryan explained.
"Watson isn't programmed - it is trained and it learns, like humans do.
"We train Watson to watch tennis and understand the moments in a match that make for emotionally engaging highlights. Watson can sense drama and intensity, and reconcile that with the score and statistical data.
"Very quickly, Watson can curate those moments into highlight videos which allows Wimbledon's creative teams to work much more quickly, rather than mundanely look through footage of the many courts."
It is having a major impact. Last year at Wimbledon 14.4 million net new highlights video views were produced without human intervention. The quantity of highlights packages created since 2016 soared by 252 per cent. The team around this technology beam most proudly, however, when they explain that a person's turnaround time to create these packages was reduced from an hour to 15 minutes with Watson's help.
Improving workflow, rather than revolutionising it, is the key message.
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"It will help people. Cognitive highlights help the Wimbledon team do interesting and creative work, because it takes away the need to rifle through content long-hand. People can use their time much more effectively," Ryan continued.
"We passionately believe that human plus machine is far stronger than human or machine."
One of the most impressive aspects about the Cognitive Highlights Solutions is that it is capable of recognising moments of pure emotion - ecstasy or despair - that you would assume only a human could understand.
That ability, its creators are proud to explain, has gone transatlantic in an unusual way.
"In 2011 we competed on the international stage and beat two champions from the American quiz show Jeopardy," Ryan said. "At that point, this technology, which had been worked on for a long time, showed a new milestone because Jeopardy is complex and cryptic.
"Watson also generated most of the content for a movie trailer by watching the whole movie. It's like we sent it to film school. It reads emotional signatures, and understands through language how we are feeling. It maps that sentiment, over time."
Wimbledon is leading the way with its Artificial Intelligence use. Helped by IBM, the Cognitive Highlights Solutions is enabling a skilled team to achieve even more.
Ryan wants this relationship to grow and inspire future generations, who will find IBM's technology in their workplace.
"Artificial Intelligence adds billions to the UK's GDP and will become a net creator of jobs. We invest in giving people the right skills to work with this technology. You will find Watson in university and schools curricula, because giving people skills is a key part of realising the benefit of this technology."
As for Watson at Wimbledon, do not expect its education to stop anytime soon.
"Since 2007 we haven't stopped training Watson so its ability to read players' emotions has been further improved. The TV feed that Watson produces has also been changed to reduce the production time to just a couple of minutes and the Wimbledon editorial team will get a new editorial dashboard to streamline the process of consolidating these highlights.
"Wimbledon will continue to innovate around Watson's capability and will get better at creating the best content for fans. Speed of producing content and getting it out into the public domain helps Wimbledon stand out from all the other media outlets. This is a great example of man and machine working in harmony to help tennis fans get even more from Wimbledon this summer."
For further information go to www.ibm.com/wimbledon