When it was speculated that AI was coming for human jobs, the last career we expected to come into conflict with artificial intelligence was ‘sports commentator’. It’s not that bad right now — Paul Stubbs and Kaya Malotana will probably still be commentating for a while yet — but it is a real fear, courtesy of IBM. And, of course, the US Masters tournament.
That’s right, the sport being used to test generatively-created commentary is golf. The Masters Tournament, taking place this weekend, has a digital counterpart. This is available via the Masters app and website and, this year, the digital record of each shot will also include “detailed golf narration for more than 20,000 video clips over the course of the Tournament”.
Masters of AI
The commentary system will be layered over clips of golfing action by IBM’s Watson. You might remember that as one of the earliest massive AIs. Or perhaps you won’t since OpenAI and GPT have sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Watson, in various incarnations, will “produce narration with varied sentence structure and vocabulary, avoiding redundant play-by-play iterations to make the clips informative and engaging”.
It’s a great trick if the minds behind it can pull it off. Afterwards, they could hand those skills to Electronic Arts and anyone else who makes sports games for a living. Generating engaging commentary has long been a problem for those games and reactive, custom solutions would deepen player immersion. But IBM’s system isn’t done yet.
Watson will also provide “hole-by-hole player predictions”, thanks to a system called IBM Watson Studio. This has been fed recent Masters data (over 120,000 individual shots) and will power the event’s Players Insights and Masters Fantasy Projections functions this year.
IBM’s Jonathan Adashek said, “We’re applying the same hybrid cloud, AI technology and IBM Consulting services that we use with clients across industries to bring an elevated digital experience to one of the most iconic sporting events in the world.” Plus, no commentators will be harmed during the making of this golf tournament. Well, not by artificial intelligence, at any rate. But if Adam Sandler turns up, all bets are off.