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BBC Shoehorns AI Reference into Wimbledon Coverage Claims

By Gary Cutlack on at

The BBC thinks we might be more likely to watch TV if we know that AI is involved in this year's Wimbledon coverage, and, having read the news story, it perhaps sort of really is in some small way; although a human will have the final say-so, just in case the AI goes rogue and delivers a highlights package that's 90 minutes of slow motion shots of white pants, because it checked and thinks that's what the internet wants.

And although that probably is what the internet wants and plenty of fans will be delivering that on their own YouTube accounts, it's not what should happen with the BBC's AI experiment. This is using IBM's Watson supercomputer, apparently, and is tasking it with automatically generating highlights packages of matches for online use. Because in the early days of the tournament, it's quite tough to know whether the mixed doubles match out on court 229 is a classic or people are only cheering because there's a pigeon that won't go away or a particularly clumsy ballboy.

The editing and selection AI will use several clues to gauge interest in matches -- crowd noise, the fist-pumping of the players, and the swings and roundabout of the scoring progress -- to decide which matches are best for including in highlights bundles. These will then be automatically assembled and passed to some leathery old BBC/Wimbledon pro for approval.

The key point being this editing and selection can be done digitally and faster than people in sweltering editing lorries round the back of the grounds can manage, so the clips ought to hit the internet substantially quicker thanks to the involvement of what you might generously describe as AI. Although a collection of sensors and if/then commands might've done the same job 20 years ago. [BBC]