News Announcers To Be Replaced With AI, Report Reveals

Artificial intelligence is powering everything these days, even news announcers at major sporting events.

The All England Club announced recently that it would introduce captions and commentary powered by AI in the coverage for this year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament. 

In a recent announcement, IBM – which developed the AI technology that will be used at the tournament – said:

“This new insight will help tennis fans to uncover anomalies and potential surprises in the singles draw, which would not be apparent by looking only at the players’ ranking.”

To create the new features for Wimbledon, IBM trained the watsonx AI platform so that it could utilize the “unique language of tennis.” The All England Club also provided access to the platform so that it could get statistics on players such as its power index, which is used to analyze player performance.

The AI technology will be used to create captions for various tennis highlight reels that will be posted online. It’s also possible that this could lead to eventually airing commentary powered by AI live on television as the matches are going on.

Since 2017, Wimbledon has been using AI in some of the stat packages that it has for the tournament, helping to create this power index as well as other statistics.

Kevin Farrar of IBM wanted to stress that they don’t see AI as a way to replace human commentary that’s provided at Wimbledon or other sporting events. Instead, he said he sees AI as one tool that could enhance the fan experience. 

As he explained:

“I see AI as very much complementing the human element, rather than replacing. 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].”

In other words, Farrar is saying that the AI technology could be used to provide commentary to certain events at Wimbledon that don’t currently have humans serving as play-by-play commentators. With so many different events happening at the tennis tournament, only so many are actually covered by humans.

Farrar did, however, seem to suggest that AI could eventually replace humans when he said:

“It’s not based on a specific person, or an individual and their style. You can see in the future that you could train it in specific styles [of commentary], languages, voices. So, this is a step on that journey.”

Bill Jinks, the technology director at the All England Club, said that his tech department isn’t looking to replace human umpires with AI-powered technology. He did say, though, that line judges could eventually be replaced by computers.

That falls in line with what the men’s ATP tour announced recently – that all line judges would be replaced by computers completely by 2025.

Commentary powered by AI is on the rise, with many different media and sporting outlets saying they were working on fine-tuning it to provide supplemental and enhanced coverage to what they were already doing with humans.