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Wimbledon’s AI announcer was inevitable

By Will Leitch

05 Jul 2023 · 6 min read

informed Summary

  1. The All England Club, in partnership with IBM, has introduced AI commentators for match highlights at this year's Wimbledon. The technology uses a large language model trained on specific Wimbledon terminology to identify highlight-worthy videos and provide simple commentary.

The Wimbledon announcer sounds a little like Helen Mirren if she’d just been hit with a polo mallet. I’m watching match highlights between Ons Jabeur and Magdalena Fręch on the tournament’s website when a voice says, “Jabeur, from Tunisia, will play Fręch, from Poland, on the renowned No. 1 court in the first round.” Fręch is mispronounced, as is Tunisia, and the word renowned is used oddly dispassionately, as if it were being repeated for a competitor at a spelling bee.

This is a commentary chatbot, introduced with considerable fanfare at the All England Club this year. Another version, a “male” voice, sounds like your uncle from Queens trying to do a Hugh Grant impression. These AI commentators provide “play-by-play narration” for highlight reels published online. They are the result of a partnership between the All England Club and its longtime corporate sponsor IBM, which has been part of Wimbledon for so long that it introduced the “Data Entry Keypad” back when John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova were still playing.

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