IBM brings augmented reality to Australian Open

David Braue
22 January, 2010
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We’re not sure how many people will be attending the Australian Open with an Android-powered smartphone in hand, but those that do have early access to an interesting new augmented reality application developed by longtime technology sponsor IBM.

Called IBM Seer, the application pulls a live view through the camera of an Android-powered phone, then uses GPS and directional clues to match the photo against a database of known places. This database includes tennis courts, catering facilities, and myriad other aspects of the Melbourne Park facilities.

Point the camera at a particular tennis court, for example, and the application will not only tell you which court it is, but will tell you who’s playing at that moment and what the current score is. That information is already widely available via Web, iPhone and other applications, but Seer marries it with the ever-changing smartphone picture to produce a totally different augmented-reality view.

A ‘radar’ function shows the current direction the user is facing, with dots indicating other known points of interest within the view of the camera. A map view pinpoints the user’s location on a detailed map of Melbourne Park. The app also displays Twitter feeds relevant to the places being looked at.

“The IBM Seer application brings together data visualisation, content generated by IBM scouts, twitter feds and real-time scoring to deliver a powerful new interactive tool with which organisations can engage key audiences,” said David Burns, IBM’s Australian Open executive sponsor. “With more and more information available to us in our everyday lives, the ability for us to connect this information and communicate it intelligently will provide benefits in all facets of our lives in ways we have not yet considered.”

To build the application, IBM used NAVTEQ digital mapping technology to locate a broad array of points of interest around Melbourne Park. This was tied to a code base built on Mobilizy’s Wikitude technology, as well as GPS positioning and digital mapping tools from NAVTEQ. Twitter feeds were aggregated and hosted through XS2TheWorld, with Ogilvy Interactive handling technical project management.

The application is available to any user of an Android-powered smartphone through the Android Marketplace App Store.

Others can click here for a YouTube video showing Seer in action.

IBM’s Australian Open 2010 application for iPhone users, which does not include the augmented reality features described above, is available here.

For those that are interested, IBM has a long history of bringing interesting new technologies to the Australian Open. Here are some of the other applications the company is running to support this year’s tournament:

Scoring System: IBM technology powers the integrated end-to-end scoring system that delivers live results to the on-court scoreboards, results kiosks and the Match Information Displays.
Speed Serve System: The IBM courtside radar gun captures the speed of a serve and, immediately displays the information courtside and transmits it to the IBM scoring database. The system consists of two electronic displays, a custom built radar system and software for capturing serve speeds, direction and other statistics.
Match Statistics: On the seven broadcast courts, IBM statisticians record match information such as winners, challenges, serve percentages, breakpoints, unforced errors and net approaches. These statistics are then sent in real time to the IBM Scoring System.
CHUMP PDA’s: CHUMP is the primary application in which scoring data is inputted on-site and is essentially an electronic scorecard, calculating basic statistics. CHUMPs are used both wired and wirelessly on the courts.
Intranet: The on-site information system allows media, broadcasters and tournament officials to access real-time scores, draws, news and more, including each player’s tournament history, match-ups and results or activity. Video is available on both the home page as well as the full statistics page, plus live video of the matches in progress is also fed to the site.
Referee and Scheduling Services: Services to support the referee and tournament control, including a high technology scheduling system.  This system allows for enhanced event set-up, schedule of play and player schedule website administration. In conjunction with Tennis Australia, IBM designs, publishes, produces and hosts the Australian Open website. This interactive, media-rich online experience allows fans to listen to live radio, review highlights of the day, participate in feedback discussions and blogs as well as follow the scores from every court as the action happens. Last year, this site received over 8.6 million unique users.
IBM SlamTracker: IBM SlamTracker overcomes the problem of limited courtside seats by giving fans a virtual seat at the tournament. Millions of fans from all over the world can use SlamTracker to interact in real-time with the draw online, track players’ progress and have scores and results served up live. SlamTracker provides users with an increased level of personalisation and interactivity.
Mobile: The mobile website, designed specifically for mobile phones, provides real-time scores, schedule, draws and player information for mobile devices with browser support.  An iPhone application also provides real-time scores, results, schedule of play, highlights, live radio and Twitter feeds.
Consolidation and virtualisation: The official Australian Open website is supported by multiple geographically-dispersed server farms, virtualised as one. In 2006, 60 servers were required to cope with the increase in traffic that the site experiences during the Open. This year, IBM will use just six. Moreover, IBM has implemented IBM Direct Active Energy Manager in monitoring mode and is altering CPU clock speed during non-busy times to further reduce energy demands.

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