Excitement Recognition

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2 min read
Novak Djokovic celebrating during a tennis game

Video highlights are as integral to sports as endorsement deals for star athletes. Now AI is picking the most exciting moments and compiling them quicker than humans.

What’s new: Since 2017, the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club — host of the world-famous Wimbledon Championships — has used IBM’s Watson technology to choose clips of the best serves, rallies, and points. This year, Big Blue debuted tools that mitigate the system’s bias toward highly animated players, among other things.

Robofan: Watson monitors matches live, grading each moment in terms of excitement. The criteria come from audio and video cues — such as a player pumping a fist or the crowd erupting into cheers — which Watson sorts into classes such as player gestures or crowd reactions. By weighing each moment relative to others in a match, the algorithm recommends which highlights are worth assembling into video summaries. Watson chooses the clips, cuts them together, and passes them to a human editor for review.

Net effect: The new tools are meant to make sure the system treats all players fairly.

  • A hometown crowd may cheer more loudly for a highly-ranked athlete, or a crowd suffering under a midday sun may be subdued. So Watson weighs factors like player rank, time of day, and court number.
  • The system listens for the distinctive pop of a ball hitting a racket. That way, it can crop clips tightly, eliminating dull moments that drag down a match summary.

Behind the news: More video views mean more eyes on advertisements — not to mention logos visible around the court. Sporting organizations are businesses, and they’re eager to take advantage of anything that helps them capitalize on fan attention.

Why it matters: Watson has had a rough time in its primary field of medicine. Its work at Wimbledon suggests it may have a brighter future in sportscasting. Viewership of the championship’s highlight videos rose dramatically when Watson took over editing duties: The clips garnered 14.4 million more views compared to the year before, an IBM engineer told Computerworld.

We’re thinking: AI has proven its ability to write routine news articles on sports, corporate earnings, and real estate. Now it's gaining skill at video editing. If only it could do something about the Game of Thrones finale . . . .


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