Sports broadcasters, look away now.
On Wednesday, tech company IBM announced that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will form part of Wimbledon’s tennis commentary this year, apparently helping fans to engage with the tournament “on a deeper level.”
According to a press release from IBM, which has developed the AI commentary tool, the new feature will be used for all video highlights packages during Wimbledon.
It will be available for fans following the tournament on the Wimbledon website and app, providing audio commentary and captions of key moments, which can be toggled on and off.
“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,” the press release said.
It added that experts had worked with Wimbledon organizers “to train the AI in the unique language of tennis.”
Wimbledon already uses AI to provide match insights, highlight reels, and a power index leaderboard. This year, as well as the video commentary, AI will also be used to provide a draw analysis, calculating a player’s chances of reaching the final in the singles draw.
Kevin Farrar, IBM’s sports partnerships leader, said he sees AI as “very much complementing the human element, rather than replacing it” when it comes to sports commentary.
“You can’t replace John McEnroe doing commentary, that human element always needs to be there,” said Farrar, according to The Telegraph. “It’s very much supplementing and complementing.”
McEnroe, a seven-time grand slam winner, won Wimbledon three times and now works as tennis pundit.
This year’s Wimbledon gets underway on July 3 and runs until July 16.
The latest announcement on how AI technology is being used in the tournament is part of a wider trend in tennis as the sport embraces technology.
In April, the men’s ATP Tour said that electronic line calls will be used instead of on-court line judges from 2025. The ATP said that the move was intended to “optimise accuracy and consistency across tournaments.”
For golf’s Masters tournament in April, IBM provided AI-generated commentary for more than 20,000 video clips over the duration of the event.