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An interior rendering The Golden Center. Photo via Sacramento Kings.
An interior rendering The Golden Center. Photos via Sacramento Kings.

The Sacramento Kings, led by owner and former tech executive Vivek Ranadive, are certainly one of the most tech-savvy franchises in sports, from accepting Bitcoin to partnerships with Uber to the drones at the Golden 1 Center construction site — so it’s no surprise that the team plans on utilizing chatbots to improve engagement with fans.

Prior to next season, the Kings will become the first NBA team to communicate with fans via chatbot technology, which uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to understand what people need and want. Tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and others are all developing related applications using similar technology.

The Kings, meanwhile, partnered with a startup called JiffyBots for their chatbots, which will help enhance the fan experience, said Kings CTO Ryan Montoya.

“It’s about personalizing the fan experience and strengthening that bond,” he told GeekWire.

To start, the chatbots will be used to provide updates via Facebook Messenger about the Golden 1 Center, the team’s new high-tech arena that opens next fall in time for the 2016-17 NBA season.

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“Throughout the entire process designing this arena, we’ve always thought about how we remove friction and barriers from the fan experience,” Montoya said. “With the bot, we’re able to do that with efficient conversations with fans.”

Down the road, Montoya said the team will utilize the bot technology within other applications — like the team’s office app — and for different use cases. For example, perhaps you want to upgrade your seats or get some detailed statistics about a given player or game — a bot could help facilitate that process. It will also be able to learn from individual fans and develop a “personality,” the team said.

It will be interesting to see how chatbots play a role in the sports world. Earlier today we reported about theScore, a sports media company that is rolling out its own chatbot technology to provide fans with news updates.

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