IBM serves up AI for US Open; tennis legend Maria Sharapova a guest in return to New York for Grand Slam

by Ahleper Tech
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The 2023 U.S. Open, similar to many of the other major tennis tournaments this year, will incorporate game-changing artificial intelligence technology.

First serve for the U.S. Open is set to take place Monday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York. Millions of fans are once again expected to watch the action via more traditional methods, such as television, while others will likely engage with the tournament via the app and other digital platforms.

This year’s tournament will also have a very special guest in attendance: 2006 U.S. Open winner Maria Sharapova.

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Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic serves the ball to Ryan Harrison of the U.S. during their 2017 U.S. Open men’s singles match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on August 30, 2017. (Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images)

The tennis legend was on hand on Friday, marking her return to a place where she has experienced a tremendous amount of success on the court.

“I am thrilled to be back in New York,” the five-time Grand Slam winner said to Fox News Digital during a tournament preview on Friday.

WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)?

Sharapova, along with IBM, introduced some of the innovative technology that fans and even the players will experience throughout this year’s Grand Slam tournament. IBM’s consulting arm has spent years working with the United States Tennis Association to develop a cutting-edge digital experience for tennis fans.

“The digital experience of the US Open is of enormous importance to our global fans, and therefore to us,” USTA’s Chief Commercial Officer Kirsten Corio said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

“That means we need to constantly innovate to meet the modern demands of tennis fans, anticipating their needs, but also surprising them with new and unexpected experiences.”

Sharapova is also well aware about the importance of connectivity between fans and the athletes on the tennis court.

“I feel like when you’re an athlete, you form a connection with people and fans,” Sharapova recently said.

Maria Sharapova at the US Open

Maria Sharapova prepares to serve during her women’s singles first-round match against Serena Williams at the U.S. Open on August 26, 2019, in New York City. (Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

IBM’s data center has a significant footprint inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The facility is used to gather and analyze millions of data points for the U.S. Open’s digital platforms. This year’s tournament will also utilize AI commentary. The tech uses a first-of-its-kind sports computer vision module that collects and analyzes data on a given player’s specific movements.

Those movements are quickly transformed by a language model into narration. Earlier this year, IBM introduced a similar type of technology for Wimbledon. IBM’s Watsonx AI platform created audio commentary and captions for video highlight packages.

Watsonx.ai is the company’s enterprise AI and data platform and will be deployed for the U.S. Open tournament. The generative AI models will help curate original content for both the U.S. Open app and the tournament’s official website.

The next-generation AI model has the ability to produce popular features on the app, such as the “Match Insights” and the AI commentary for highlight reels.

“I believe this brand-new AI-based tech will give fans a whole new way to experience the sport. The U.S. Open holds a special place in my career, and I made a lot of memories here. I think any way we can engage a new generation of fans is good for the game of tennis. I can’t wait for everyone to experience the tech once the tournament gets underway,” the retired 36-year-old tennis star said.

US Open fans arrive

Tennis fans are shown at Arthur Ashe Stadium during the fourth round of the U.S. Open in New York City on Sept. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Tennis fans who are not able to attend the U.S. Open in person can sometimes experience difficulty finding a specific match over the course of the two-week tournament. Every year, hundreds of matches take place on 22 different courts throughout the tournament, and all of those matches do not make it to the television broadcast.

It is difficult to fill every match with commentators, but the AI technology from IBM will allow for spoken commentary for all match that is played at the U.S. Open.

Watsonx.ai Sandstone was training to understand the unique language of tennis to create a more seamless experience for fans.

“Foundation models are incredibly powerful and are ushering in a new age of generative AI,” Shannon Miller, a partner at IBM Consulting, said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “But to generate meaningful business outcomes, they need to have domain expertise. And that’s why an organization’s proprietary data is the key differentiator when it comes to AI.”

Sharapova last played in the U.S. Open in 2019, losing in the first round to fellow tennis legend Serena Williams.

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Despite retiring three years ago, she still seems to take a disciplined approach to her fitness. During her playing career, she became known for sticking to a strict diet in an effort to stay at the top of her game.

“Strength work doesn’t come easy for me but it’s so important,” Sharapova wrote in a social media post ahead of her New York arrival. The Instagram post was accompanied by a photo of her after an apparent exercise session.

The 2023 U.S. Open begins on Aug. 28 and concludes on Sept. 10.



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