Wimbledon isn’t the first place you would think of as a playground for technological advances. The tournament is a stuffy archaic event and while it has a nostalgic atmosphere it isn’t exactly modern. The site does not even have Wi-Fi yet! Nevertheless, IBM have decided to use it as a testing ground for their latest adventure of Watson.
IBM Watson is the umbrella term for a machine which processes masses of data and from unique sources. For instance, it initially was used to take part in the American TV show Jeopardy as it was programmed to answer question from conversational English. It went on to win an episode in 2011 against some former champions. It has now moved on to bigger and better things. One of its stand out new features is facial recognition.
At Wimbledon, right now, Watson is monitoring facial expressions of the fans and will be able to determine, among other things, who the fans appear to be supporting based on them. Sport is becoming more and more digital in its consumption, and Watson is hoping to get in early on the growing areas. Social media is an important part of media now and thanks to its skills of interpretation Watson will be able to filter through the thousands of posts, and shares, and get the most relevant to the people who would be most interested. It can do this faster than any human possibly could. Wimbledon had 71m visitors to its website but is hoping that by creating a good social media section it will be able to keep more on the pages and for longer.
Watson’s fast data processing capabilities will be used in sporting areas too. All 19 courts will contain cameras that will produce 3.2m pieces of data such as serve speed, location of winners etc. Watson can then get this information out to the people who want it fast. At any second a person on the right app or site can get tailored data on anything they would like, well that’s the plan anyway.
This idea on inbuilt media at live events started in the NFL last year at a San Francisco 49ers match. The spectators of which half of the 71,000 did, were able to download a specially made app. This was utilised using Watson’s data crunching to give fans info on the game at hand. It also was used for in stadium use telling the fan which toilets were nearest or which bar had the longest queue. It was used for commercial purposes too. Drinks saw a 67% rise in sales after a service was offered to deliver drinks directly to the seats and if you bought merchandise off the app you could set a time and location to pick it up to prevent crowds in the shops.
All in all, Watson is changing the way sports is consumed, and in the case of social media will potentially be able to read the nuances and relevancy in posts, and apply that to a high speed feed for anything. At something like the Olympics where records could be broken at any time, getting instant feedback without having to go look for it yourself would be very much welcomed indeed. IBM and Watson are coming to a stadium near you!