The sports industry has had a very difficult 12 months, all over the world, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtually no sport was left unaffected, as sporting events were cancelled en masse globally, with people having to stay indoors under lockdown orders to try and slow down the spread of the virus. Even when sports events were able to return, a few months into the pandemic, they had to be held without fans in attendance, which automatically meant that revenue was lost, while the lack of atmosphere led to some strange results in every sport. The way forward may be a little clearer now, with vaccination programs progressing at pace, but at the moment, most sports events are still being held behind closed doors, or with limited capacity where possible.
In such a situation, virtual events became even more important than before. Many sports tournaments took to the internet during the initial phase of the pandemic last year to try and stay connected with their fans. There were esports tournaments, virtual meetings with players, and many more initiatives put into place to ensure that sports fans were able to still have some form of content available to them. It is interesting to see the experience of the Australian Open in these terms – the tournament is the first of the four tennis Grand Slams held every year, and while it had gone off without too many concerns around the pandemic last January, that was not the case this time around, with players having to quarantine for a couple of weeks upon arrival in Australia before they could even begin to practice, for example. Fans were only allowed in small numbers, and so it was vital to make the tournament even more virtual than ever before to ensure access to fans sitting at home, and that is where Infosys, the tech giant, came into the picture.
Of course, these sort of initiatives were taken across various sectors in the last 12 months, with some proving to be more successful than others. For example, the gambling sector was hit hard as well, with casinos all over the world having to close their doors to customers. Innovative solutions were needed, and one of them was to use technology to bring casinos to customers in their homes. Some casino operators were able to use VR and AR to simulate a casino experience, with a Bitcoin live dealer, for example, for players to engage in from the comfort of their homes, and this shows how technology can help bring these sort of events to people no matter where they may be.
It was a similar case with the Australian Open, where Infosys added 3D court analytics, AI-based insight on games, and simulated fan experiences to the tournament. AI was used to create and deliver the ‘shot of the day’ highlights package for the Australian Open media team, while the 3D CourtVision allowed fans to be able to watch games with a data overlay in place, which showed shot placement, speeds and spin, along with different viewing angles, giving fans an unprecedented level of insight into the game. Fans could also see performance analysis of each player for each zone on the court, which was once again powered by AI, while players were also able to benefit through the AI Video Analysis tool, which allowed them to be able to assess how to win certain shots or handle long rallies, for example. This tool could help coaches improve their players’ games during the tournament, even if they weren’t able to travel to Australia themselves, and therefore, we can see how Infosys’ tools were able to help fans and players during this Grand Slam, with the potential for this to be used for other tournaments and sports as well.