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How IBM Is Using AI to Build the Future of Esports Casting

From The Masters to the U.S. Open, IBM has been consistent in its involvement in real-world sports. Now IBM is hoping to evolve alongside it, “as sports play time migrates from the physical playing field to massive organized, multiplayer video game competitions.”

This week at GDC 2019, IBM is presenting its artificial intelligence-driven vision for the future of esports shoutcasting. It’s showing how its artificial intelligence system Watson can be used to improve player performance in esports, and to create a better fan experience overall — what IBM describes as “sticky” experiences.

“IBM developers and open source experts are also developing ways to help gaming event promoters lure fans using enhanced video, and feeding important information to live commentators and the IBM Cloud is increasing global scale for developers and publishers,” says IBM.

“Esports is approaching a billion-dollar industry. It’s growing fast and claims some of the most passionate fans of any competitive activity — some events have attracted more than 100 million viewers. With growth that is impossible to ignore, traditional sports leagues are starting to make big investments in the space.”

IBM is doing this by leveraging the same technology as that used during the U.S. Open, it says. Watson scans through hundreds of hours of game footage and builds a dynamic highlight reel with A.I. in real time. Esports shoutcasters are fed this A.I.-curated data to tablets during the broadcast “to help keep on-air conversation lively and relevant.”

“The cloud is the backbone for scalability and better data portability,” says IBM. “To stay competitive, online gaming requires an ability to process complex graphic workloads while scaling without interruption. Game developers are increasingly turning to cloud technologies to enable them to build and deploy high-performance gaming platforms across the globe with the low latency players require.

“EA’s Firemonkeys, Exit Games, and LiquidSky are just a few examples of companies that have turned to the IBM Cloud to drive innovative experiences no matter where players are or what device they’re using.”

Developed in IBM’s DeepQA, Watson can answer questions posed in natural language. In 2018, it powered the U.S. Open for 10 million users with real-time in-game analytics, critical players stats, video highlights, and other competitive analysis. But, IBM’s Watson has been used for a variety of other, more game-related purposes. Its Unity SDK was previously used in the PlayStation 4 game “Star Trek: Bridge Crew,” which allows users to control their ships using voice commands.

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