Wimbledon is continuing its long-term partnership with IBM at this year’s Championships by putting Watson to work and introducing several new spectator-focused technologies for fans to enjoy.
Last summer the focus was on winning the social battle against the European football championships, while the 2017 emphasis is all to do with ‘differentiation’ and testing out new technologies for the future.
“What we’ve tried to do over the last 5 years is prove that you can do digital differently. You can be digital and beautiful at the same time,” explained Alexandra Willis, head of communications, content and digital, AELTC.
“When we were planning for this year’s Championships we were faced with a bit of a ‘what’s next’ conundrum because all of the platforms are in a good state and they very much have beauty at their core. So we decided to slightly change our approach.”
This change involves Wimbledon focusing on three key areas: Function, i.e. personalisation and user-centric tools; Data, with an emphasis on providing “insights in the moment” and Technology, targeting fans at different levels of the adoption spectrum.
The ‘function’ pillar is all about engaging fans both onsite and offsite through a range of new services.
The first is the use of 360-degree video with augmented reality “to bring to life the practice courts,” an area which is not currently digitally available to the public. Content will be streamed through the Wimbledon app and on social media, with graphic overlays giving details on the players involved.
Next, the AELTC has improved the levels of personalisation in the Wimbledon app. Tools for fans to plan their visit in advance were launched last year and these have now been “improved upon and enhanced”.
Finally, this year’s tournament will see Wimbledon’s “first foray into putting cognitive in the hands of the fan”.
The Grand Slam is using AI technology through the creation of a visitors assistant. It’s named ‘Fred’ after Fred Perry and visitors to Wimbledon will be able to ask Fred about the types of things that they should be doing.
“So if they’re hungry where should they go and look for food? What types of food are available? Where can they find water fountains and so on,” Willis said.
Fred “uses Watson’s natural language capabilities to allow a fan to plan their day”, added Sam Seddon, Wimbledon programme executive at IBM. And, by learning what fans are interested in, the AELTC can use that “to tailor how we look at the digital platforms and the enhancements for 2018 and beyond.”
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