Sep 17 2015

IBM Serves Up New Tech at U.S. Open

Social sharing, analytics and other in-stadium technologies offer tennis fans an enhanced live-viewing experience.

Attracting more than 700,000 fans annually, the U.S. Open features talented tennis players from around the world; but this year, the two-week event showcased another rising star: in-stadium technology.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) partnered with IBM for the 25th year in a row to bring fans an immersive experience at the U.S. Open, which ran from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

IBM debuted its latest in-stadium feature, Simulcastr, in time for the event. Research scientist Nirmit Desai described the social-sharing technology in a mid-tournament post on A Smarter Planet Blog:

Fans at the tennis center who download the U.S. Open app to their iPhones can choose real-time video feeds from various parts of the venue — anything from scenes of athletes heading for matches to shots of the queues at the refreshment stands. Unlike with the popular video streaming service[s] Meerkat and Periscope, the videos can’t be seen by anybody outside the tennis center.

Captured by fixed cameras or USTA employees, the video footage offered unique perspectives of the 2015 U.S. Open. IBM, however, plans to one day expand the scope of the technology to allow fans to shoot and share their own videos from inside stadiums.

According to a press release, this year’s U.S. Open also featured other IBM innovations designed to benefit fans:

  • For the first time, IBM’s streaming analytics technology will automatically identify and alert the USTA to record-breaking player achievements and milestones in real-time, enabling significant championship stats and personal career highlights to be shared with fans via social media, Web and news sources.
  • An enhanced IBM SlamTracker application featuring deeper analysis of player and ball position data to provide a better understanding of emerging player and match dynamics. This feature augments match analysis by uncovering hidden performance patterns that impact player performance and dynamics that influence the outcome of a match.
  • A Social Share feature has been added to SlamTracker to allow fans to instantly share emerging match insights with friends and followers via Facebook.
  • Redesigned and refreshed mobile apps — for Apple iPad and iPhone, and Android devices — loaded with enriched analytics will better inform and keep fans connected to U.S. Open matches and insights.

American Express also outfitted the stadium with three “You vs. Sharapova” virtual-reality booths, in which fans could spend four minutes facing off against tennis star Maria Sharapova via a mix of HTC Vive and SteamVR technology.

In-stadium features, such as those provided by IBM and American Express, make spectators feel like they’re part of the action. And considering the recent attendance drop at the Miami Open and other sporting events, interactive technology could be just what the U.S. Open needs to ensure its 700,000-plus fans keep coming back.

Yashkin Dmitry/ThinkStock

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