IBM Watson is making AI an important player in the US Open

Tennis players will use AI-powered highlights in this year's US Open tournament.

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The final, and some say most exciting, Grand Slam event of the year is the US Open. This year players and coaches will have a new tool in the form of artificial intelligence from IBM Watson to help improve performance on the court.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has partnered with IBM for more than 25 years on various technologies, but this is the first year that AI-powered tools will be used by players and coaches during the tournament at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY. The tournament runs through September 9.

Coaches will have access to a comprehensive database of match videos. With Watson's help, they will be able to review hours of match footage and automatically identify and index key points and stats. Coaches can then design detailed reports for players to be used during subsequent matches.

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"Coaches and tennis players look to video as a useful resource that helps to evaluate players and develop scouting reports before and during tournaments. Working with IBM enables us to process and index video using AI to free up valuable intellectual capital that we can re-allocate to more interpretive and customized analysis," said Martin Blackman, general manager of USTA player development. "Analyzing footage of previous matches is normally very time-intensive, involving many hours of manual 'match-tagging.' Video tagging that used to take hours can now take Watson minutes to execute. We are excited that working together with IBM we can create a new solution that will revolutionize our ability to pair analytics with coaching expertise to drive performance."

Fans will also benefit from the use of AI at this year's US Open. The digital fan experience designed by IBM iX has launched two new AI-powered features:

The AI Highlight dashboard will populate in near real-time every shot of a match. 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.

The AI Highlight builder will allow the US Open Digital Team to 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 generates the highlights package for the USTA Digital Team to publish.

IBM and USTA will also continue to optimize offerings and integrate new features that will redefine the real-time fan experience on and off the court:

Now on Facebook Messenger and optimized across all US Open digital platforms, a virtual concierge gives fans access to an AI-powered chatbot. Enabled by IBM Watson, the chatbot answers questions about scoring, schedules, transportation, dining options and more.

For fans of SlamTracker, the USTA app that debuted last year, the experience will now include a "momentum" feature so fans can see who has advantage as well as the shifts in momentum over the course of all live matches. SlamTracker will continue to provide scores, stats and insights for all matches in progress.

John Kent, program manager for IBM sports and entertainment partnerships, said the USTA is offering the new features to fans because of the competition between broadcasters and other sports entities covering the matches. "Video is a crucial part of what people like to consume from a content perspective. So, that is where we have been using our AI technology and really helping the USTA to produce videos that they couldn't produce before, at least in detail," he said.

Fans at the US Open can go to the The IBM Experience, which is an on-site fan experience new this year at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center. Here they can learn about the technology being used during the tournament. Fans will be able to test Watson's ability to recognize the sights and sounds of the game, and create their own AI Highlights to share on social media.

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Image: IBM

By Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Editor at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...