Media & Entertainment

When Watson Dons Tennis Whites, Wimbledon Fans Rejoice

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If Fred Perry were alive today, I have no doubt that the last Englishman to win Wimbledon would be endlessly fascinated – and maybe even honoured – that IBM’s latest version of the tennis tournament fan app has an “Ask Fred” feature. It’s a virtual concierge service that will tell you where to get everything from the best Pimm’s Cups, strawberries & cream, and fish & chips (all fare that Mr. Perry would have enjoyed) to the best parking near the Championships.

What’s best about the app – specially designed in collaboration with the All England Lawn Tennis Club by IBM – is that it brings the distinct Wimbledon experience to the rest of the world. Not everyone can travel to the posh London suburb this summer and take in the world’s premiere tennis tournament. For instance, I will be spending some of the Wimbledon fortnight in Los Angeles at the AT&T SHAPE event. I have the distinction of giving demonstrations of IBM’s Wimbledon app to conference participants, who range from C-suite executives to tech buffs keen on seeing the latest advances in the media & entertainment industry.

One thing is for certain: They’ll all be impressed with the latest version of the Wimbledon app, partly because of the way the elegant design captures the sheer beauty of the All England Club. SHAPE participants will also be fascinated by the power of the cognitive elements of the app, from the way Watson uses match data, visual recognition, crowd noise, and player gestures to analyze and create video highlights of the tournament, from break points to match points. It helps that six courts are equipped with live video feed.

Then there’s IBM SlamTracker, which provides more than just classic point-by-point scoring information. One feature analyzes so-called pressure situations. Suppose a particular player is down love-40 – SlamTracker will analyze that player’s historical statistics and information to find that he or she typically comes back from such a deficit 80 percent of the time. What a perspective on how significant that moment might be! Fans will know they should be in their seats and watching a seemingly impossible come-from-behind moment. Cognitive technology truly gives an app user the keys to the match – a set of analytics, for example, on the top three things a player does particularly well and what the outcome therefore should be. This year, a new machine learning feature refines how players’ styles are categorized. In the past, the categories were manually curated, but the app is constantly adapting to strides in machine learning.

When you first download the app, you’ll be asked who your favorite players are, just one of many ways the fan experience will be personalized for you. The handsome home screen has the gentleman’s and lady’s trophies set against the green Centre Court. You’ll get a running report of current weather, London time, and your time. One swipe shows matches in progress. Scroll up for news and highlights. The “For you” button on the left of the screen is one of best features: A “Favouriting” feature lets fans at Wimbledon do a bit of boasting to their friends back home. When they place comments and photos to their social channels, the app formats their posts using a beautifully designed backdrop. Friends who see such professional posts will surely follow the tournament more closely – using the app, of course. There’s also a box at the top that takes you to an innovative screen that accesses, well, anything related to the action. From shopping suggestions to live commentary on the Wimbledon Channel.

At end the of the fortnight, the app lets you and your fellow fans re-live your experiences on social media with the finest graphics and images. Fred Perry would be proud.


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Mr. Forshay is Senior Mobility Strategist, Mobile Product Strategy & Innovation.

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