The Australian Open plans to utilize AI in order to create simulated lip movements for Novak Djokovic and other tennis players, in order to market their event in multiple languages. This will be synced with computer-generated voices that accurately replicate the players’ vocal tone and pitch.
During the tournament’s “demo day” on Friday, a tennis commentator described the attempt to incorporate artificial intelligence as unsettling.
The display featured the initiatives of Tennis Australia (TA) in increasing viewership and income through their dedication to technological advancements and investing in emerging companies.
According to Machar Reid, the head of innovation at TA, the players have not given permission for their voices to be replicated, but they will be consulted when the technology starts making changes to their likeness.
“I hope that you are able to create mutually beneficial situations where the content is easily digestible for fans, and in exchange, the brand or player gains more exposure in various media and markets. This can ultimately aid in the growth of their own personal profiles,” according to Reid.
Reid shared a YouTube video featuring Djokovic, where the world’s top-ranked player can be heard speaking in Spanish.
According to Reid, the main focus is on ensuring coherence, followed by maintaining the speaker’s style. The third concern is having the lip movements accurately match the spoken words, which can be achieved through advancements in artificial intelligence.
The demonstration caught the attention of tennis commentator and event host, Nick McCarvel. “That’s giving me chills,” he remarks.
The demonstration by Djokovic is just one instance (as the Serb has previously used Spanish in press conferences). There are already numerous videos on the Australian Open’s YouTube channel showcasing this technology, including ones imitating the unique voices of Coco Gauff and Daniil Medvedev.
These “dubs” are created by UAE-based company Camb.AI, part of the 2024 intake in the Australian Open’s startup program, and are being delivered in under 12 hours during the tournament.
The Teaching Assistant (TA) team has implemented measures to reduce the potential for any controversy that may arise from the translated words they are assigning to the players.
According to Xavier Muhlebach, the head of original content for TA, players are extremely cautious about their public image and how they are depicted.
“At this time, we provide English subtitles that accurately reflect the content of our transcripts. This ensures that there is no room for misinterpretation when crossing language barriers.”
According to Reid, the team intends to seek input from players as the project progresses.
Reid mentions that the main emphasis has been on translating audio, but they are also planning to explore how they can enhance the fidelity of images.
I believe when you reach that point of intersection, it is time to begin the consultative process. This involves modifying the perception of a person, which can be delicate, so it is important to involve them in this process.
TA chief executive and Australian Open director, Craig Tiley, defended the financial health of the tournament two weeks ago, after it received tens of millions of dollars in Victorian government subsidies in the past three years.
The organization that runs the Australian Open, TA, has its own innovation program and works with startups in hopes of potentially investing in them through their venture capital division.
The company has already put money into two businesses: Minute.ly, an Israeli company that specializes in AI video analysis, and SwingVision, a startup based in California that focuses on ball tracking.
According to Reid, the implementation of technology was a key aspect in elevating the Australian Open to its highest potential as a top-tier tournament for both fans and players.
According to Reid, technology plays a crucial role in our fan experience and we aim to enhance and speed up its impact for the benefit of both players and fans.
Therefore, they have a mutually beneficial relationship. It is hoped that overall progress will benefit everyone involved.