Wimbledon | Tradition meets innovation with artificial intelligence

(London) If AI comes into play this year at Wimbledon Park, the line judges will not be replaced. At least for now.

As the tournament approaches (July 3-16), the All England Club and tech giant IBM on Wednesday revealed the new technologies that will be used during the competition.

One of them, an artificial intelligence, will comment on match highlights on the official Wimbledon website and mobile app. The other will use artificial intelligence to determine – and update rounds – the difficulty of the course while waiting for each player entering the singles until a possible final.

Every year the London Primary Meeting of World Tennis attracts many thousands of spectators, all lovers of the strawberries with cream that are served there, or the Pimm’s that are sipped there, or the all-white clothes worn by the players and players.

“Wimbledon is the oldest Grand Slam tournament. Our traditions go back to 1877, and that’s one of the main reasons people keep coming,” said Bill Jenks, CTO of the prestigious London tournament.

“But without technological innovation, we could not have stayed at the top of tennis,” he believes.

While the Australian Open and US Open, among others, have already popularized the use of electronic refereeing since 2021, the ATP men’s circuit announced in April that traditional linemen, who are deployed on the floor, will also be replaced from 2020. 2025, in order. “To improve accuracy and consistency (in judging, editor’s note) between sessions.”

He can’t replace McEnroe

PHOTO ADAM HUNGER, associated press archive

John McEnroe

This season, at Wimbledon, Bill Jenks promises that the latter will still be present, but he is unable to say whether this will always be the case in the future.

“Line rule technology is evolving. Since 2007, we’ve been using the Hawk’s Eye check system (a video that players can request a limited number of times, editor’s note), and it’s working really well. Who knows what the future holds? he warns, ruling out however the possibility of it becoming Artificial intelligence is the sole arbiter of the parties.

For Chris Clements, digital director at the All England Club, advances in technologies have changed the way society consumes sport, while today it has been buzzing about AI since the launch of tools such as ChatGPT, editorial content creator from California company OpenAI or Midjourney. .

“When we were kids, Wimbledon was when the whole family would gather in front of the living room TV,” he recalls. “Now it is less popular. We need to find another way to attract those who will embody the next generation of Wimbledon fans.”

Now, that involves “aggregating massive amounts of data and turning it into insights that we can share with fans around the world through our digital platforms,” ​​says Kevin Farrar, IBM’s head of sports partnerships in the UK and Ireland.

The goal, he continues, is to use this AI (which results in sports commentary) throughout the entirety of the match, for categories that would not normally benefit from it, such as veterans, juniors or wheelchair tennis. It defines without putting a complete end to human interference.

“Replacing John McEnroe’s comments is impossible!” he says of the former world number one turned TV commentator. He continues: “A person must always be present, it is simply a matter of completing it. The challenge is to find the right balance between tradition and innovation.”

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