TAYLOR’S TAKE ON THE WEEK IN SPORTS TECH: It’s shaping up to be an epic Masters in Augusta this weekend.
The annual pro golf major tournament is off to an exciting start, with 2015 champ Jordan Spieth jumping out to a first round lead after shooting a 6-under 66 on Thursday.
Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, and other stars are atop the leaderboard as well. All eyes are also on Tiger Woods, who shot a 1-over 73, as the legend miraculously finds himself back in the mix among golf’s elite again.
IBM powers the digital experience for The Masters, from Masters.com to the mobile apps for iOS and Android. New this year is “My Moments,” a personalized highlight reel that uses IBM’s Watson AI technology to serve up video based on your favorite players and the last time you’ve checked in on the tournament. It’s the first time IBM is using Watson at a major sporting event to deliver content to individual users through an app.
IBM also uses Watson to speed up the highlight reel production process. Watson’s computer vision algorithms identify what’s going on in videos — detecting loud crowd cheering or a player pumping his fist, for example — to automatically create highlight segments. This is particularly useful for a production staff at a live golf tournament, when there are 90 golfers playing around the course at the same time with multiple camera feeds capturing the action.
Also new this year at The Masters: shot-tracer technology. The TV broadcast will show the cool feature, which tracks ball flight, on hole No. 9, 10, 13, 15, and 18.
Highlights from the week in sports tech
- The NBA held its first-ever draft for the new NBA 2K League. Polygon said it showed how serious the NBA is about esports. ESPN wrote about how NBA Commissioner Adam Silver “made his mark on esports in North America.” More background on the new league here.
- ESPN unveiled its new $5 per month streaming service, ESPN+. There will be daily MLB and NHL games, in addition to every out-of-market MLS match and a variety of other live sports. Not sure there’s enough to convince most fans to spend $60 per year on this.
- Turner Sports also rolled out its own streaming service last week.
- NFL teams are getting a refresh on their websites — my colleague Kurt Schlosser did a deep dive on the Seahawks’ digital strategy.
- Chinese tech giant Tencent signed a deal with MLB to stream games in China. MLB this week also renewed its live streaming deal with Twitter.
- Wired writes about the “the tricky ethics of the NFL’s new open data policy.”
- YouTube TV inked a marketing deal with the NBA for the NBA Finals.
- The NBA will sell access to parts of live games — you can watch the fourth quarter for $0.99, for example.
- SeatGeek continues to gain momentum as the Dallas Cowboys became the latest team to use the ticketing platform.
- Video replays aren’t coming to the Surface tablets on NFL sidelines anytime soon.
- The Ringer writes about the harmony between baseball video analysis and Statcast.
- MIT Technology Review spotlights a robotic camera system that films sports like a human.
Thanks for tuning in, everyone! — Taylor Soper