How IBM Watson Took Center Court At The US Open

"To ensure fans are keeping pace throughout the tournament, IBM’s AI technology will help fans follow matches and navigate their time on the US Open grounds. While we're seeing this type of technology come to life through tennis, these AI-powered solutions also are impacting many other industries," says IBM's Noah Syken.

For the past year, IBM has been working with the USTA Player Development’s performance team to develop a technology solution that will help coaches and players analyze and improve their performance.

With this year’s US Open tournament, which wraps up this weekend, IBM Watson, the company’s machine learning/artificial intelligence platform, has been in use by tennis players and coaches to enhance their game strategy and better prepare for matches more efficiently.

As a partner of the US Open tournament for more than 25 years, IBM has consistently sought to showcase its technology for both pros and fans at the annual sports event in Queens, NY. This year, IBM and the USTA integrated its “AI Highlights” technology into player performance as the tournament enters the next phase of its technology journey.

Noah Syken, VP of Sports & Entertainment Partnerships, IBM, walked us through IBM Watson’s performance at the tennis championship.

IBM Watson in action at the US Open

GeoMarketing: How does work with this year’s US Open advance or build on previous year’s work that IBM has done for the tournament?

Noah Syken: IBM is the official AI and cloud provider for the US Open Tennis Championships and has been an innovation partner for more than 25 years. IBM works with the US Tennis Association to support the tournament’s technology infrastructure, as well as its fan-facing digital platforms including the official website and mobile apps. This year, IBM and the USTA came together again to bring an enhanced tournament experience to fans who attend the tennis center and those who tune in remotely.

Here are a few examples of the technology we’re bringing to this year’s tournament that builds off of last:

This year, we’re expanding AI Highlights to include match and player specific highlights, giving the US Open Digital Team the ability to quickly create highlights of a match or player within minutes. IBM has built an AI Highlight Dashboard for the US Open Digital Team that will populate in near real-time every shot of a match and its excitement level. The US Open digital team will be able to view and find the most exciting shot of the day or the match and leverage this content across all their digital channels, including social media.

We’ve also have this year the AI Highlight Builder that allows the US Open Digital Team to automatically generate a highlight video for any match played on one of the seven show courts. The system will generate a list of proposed points to be included in the highlights package. Once the US Open digital team selects shots from the list, the system automatically generates the highlights package for the USTA Digital team to publish.

This year, the Guest Info feature, an IBM Watson enable chatbot, answers questions and provides fans with the latest information on scoring, schedules, transportation and dining options throughout the tournament, will now be available on Facebook Messenger.

IBM introduced a reimagined SlamTracker. The updated feature will now apply Watson technology for featured matches to display information from Keys to the Match analysis – the types of plays and performance required for each player to succeed. New in 2018, SlamTracker will add a “momentum” component, where fans can see who has the advantage and the shifts in momentum over the course of all live matches.

Fans who attend the US Open will have the opportunity to go to The IBM Experience, an on-site fan experience space new this year at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center. The space is designed to introduce fans to the technology that powers the digital experience of the US Open for more than 10 million fans around the world. It will feature stunning visuals of SlamTracker, the IBM Cloud and Watson. Guests will be able to test Watson’s ability to recognize the sights and sounds of the game, and create their own AI Highlights in the process that they can share on social media.

US Open 2018 Madison Keys

Is there any other outside promotions that IBM is doing in connection with the US Open? Anything in terms of Weather Channel ads or voice activation via Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa?

IBM has partnered with ESPN to launch an AI Highlights segment during each day’s broadcast, promoting highlight-worthy US Open tournament points curated by Watson. Watson has been trained to analyze video, audio and match data to score and rank exciting moments allowing ESPN’s production team to easily serve up highlights to fans.

In addition, IBM is launching twelve new advertising spots during the US Open across TV and digital channels demonstrating IBM’s impact on tennis, business and society. The new creative brings to life how IBM is helping clients put smart to work with Watson and the IBM Cloud.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.