AI Voice Overs To Replace Human Commentators At Wimbledon

( – Wimbledon, the historic and highly renowned grand slam tennis tournament watched by more than a billion people each year, will be partially commentated on by artificial intelligence this year. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which has hosted the grass-court competition since its conception in 1877, has announced its foray into modern AI technology with the unveiling of plans to use both artificially created voices on its app and website for the 2023 summer tournament.

A spokesperson for IBM, Wimbledon’s official technology partner since 1990, has been quick to assure tennis fans that AI commentary will not replace human voices completely. Kevin Farrar, the Sports Partnerships Head, declared that the AI will complement human talent, rather than erase it.

Wimbledon is well-known for its raft of tennis talent, not just on the court, but in the commentary box, with many former players becoming highly-rated broadcasters as a result, including Tim Henman and John McEnroe. Just last year, former tennis champion Sue Barker stepped down after thirty years in her role as a Wimbledon broadcaster, receiving emotional tributes from other tennis greats including Roger Federer and Billie Jean King.

Although IBM promised to use the tool in a complementary fashion alongside human talent, the technology giant has also revealed that it aims to increase the AI output in the future and plans to use AI to commentate on full matches. The AI has been trained in the language of tennis and fine-tuned to give the audience a commentary that sounds perfectly at home in the London-based competition.

Wimbledon, although staunch in many of its traditions, such as the all-white dress code and the perfect maintenance of its 8mm long grass courts, has never shied away from innovative technology. Hawkeye, the 10-camera and 26-person system that checks and verifies where exactly a ball has landed in the court, has been in use since 2004 and has become a firm crowd favorite, although it has not yet replaced the need for line judges or umpires. An artificially created voice with no commentator input will differ, however, as it will provide commentary separately to any human broadcaster, rather than acting as a verification tool for its human counterpart.

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