Human commentators will be replaced by AI voiceovers for Wimbledon on app and website this year, All England Club announces
- The AI ‘commentator’ has been trained to use the ‘unique language of tennis’
The familiar tones of much-loved broadcasters are as much a part of Wimbledon as sudden downpours and Cliff Richard.
But commentary on the official app and website for this year’s tournament will for the first time be provided by artificial intelligence.
The All England Club has announced that daily highlights clips will use AI-created voices and text captions rather than a human broadcaster.
The technology from IBM is being described as ‘an exciting way’ to produce commentary for the action away from the main show courts.
The AI ‘commentator’ has been trained to use the ‘unique language of tennis’. It will incorporate data about where on the court the ball and the players are – and what kind of shots they are playing.
Commentary on the official app and website for this year’s tournament will for the first time be provided by artificial intelligence
The AI ‘commentator’ has been trained to use the ‘unique language of tennis’. It will incorporate data about where on the court the ball and the players are – and what kind of shots they are playing
Both male and female-sounding AI commentators will be used, although the voices will have no input from humans.
With line judges also likely to be replaced by technology in the coming years, even the most traditional of sporting events is feeling the need to change with the times.
‘I see AI as very much complementing the human element, rather than replacing,’ said IBM sports partnerships leader, Kevin Farrar.
‘You can’t replace John McEnroe doing commentary, that human element always needs to be there. It’s very much supplementing and complementing.
‘For Wimbledon, it’s about providing commentary in the future on matches that don’t currently have human commentary – like the seniors, juniors, wheelchair events.’
Live human commentary for matches on show courts covered by the BBC, the host broadcaster, will be available as normal when the event starts on July 3. But AI could be used in future for those matches as well.
Provided consent is granted, it will also be technically possible for AI to replicate the voices of famous tennis commentators like McEnroe or the late Bill Threlfall.
The ethics of bringing voices back from the dead are complicated however it would not be the first time AI has been used to digitally clone athletes.
American golfing legend Jack Nicklaus had an AI-powered animation created in his likeness able to speak to fans and answer golfing questions in real time.
An AI commentator similar to the one unveiled by Wimbledon yesterday was used for the US Masters golf tournament in April.
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