Sports fans continue to seek a dynamic viewing experience whenever they decide to tune into a live sporting event. The advancements in technology have only raised expectations.
Creative uses of graphics, on-demand game data and video replays and highlights are just some of the ways a broadcast can keep fans engaged.
The World Cup is one of the most anticipated sporting events on earth, and this year's women's edition of the soccer tournament is no exception.
Fox Sports, a unit of FOX Corp., parent to Fox News and FOX Business, proactively tackled the trend of enhancing sports fans' viewing experiences by building and deploying an innovative AI-powered feature called “Catch Up With Highlights.”
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The “Catch Up With Highlights” feature, which autonomously generates recap videos and game highlights in real time, initially launched last year for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
FOX teamed up with Amazon Web Services (AWS) for the AI-powered replay feature. Julie Souza, head of sports, global professional services, at AWS, said the amount of data available in modern sports presents several exciting and unique opportunities for fans and professional sports leagues.
“Now you have all this data in sports, whether its optical tracking through camera capture or sensors, or [players] are wearing chips in their pads … and you're getting this granular level of data now that lets you do really cool stuff and apply AI and ML (machine learning) to get insights out of it to help you if you're a [sports] league do officiating analysis, rule development or develop new analytics,” Souza told Fox News Digital.
The “Catch Up With Highlights” feature is available for fans in the U.S. via the Fox Sports App. New Zealand and Australia are serving as the host countries for this year's Women's World Cup. The U.S. women's national team is the reigning back-to-back champion, but the difference in time zones could present a challenge to fans in the U.S. who want to watch games live.
“Catch Up With Highlights” seeks to solve that problem by providing viewers with an easy tool that shows key plays they may have missed should they tune into after kickoff.
Phil Martin, FOX’s vice president of data products and machine learning strategy, helped spearhead the “Catch Up With Highlights” development. He said the innovative feature was created with sports fans in mind.
“Over the last five years, our team has had tremendous success with unlocking the power of data through the building of advanced and intelligent platforms and products. In addition, we’ve really rallied around the idea of revolutionizing fandom. We believe that sports should be enjoyable and accessible for everyone, which is why we've designed our platform to make it easy to engage with and enjoy,” Martin said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
Audio cues and camera angles in games are used to teach a computer which elements should be featured in a video recap. The technology utilizes services from AWS, including Amazon Rekognition.
“This is leveraging computer vision and a lot of other services from AWS to help us develop what they did for the World Cup, which is called ‘Catch Up With Highlights,'” Souza said.
“It's allowing our systems like Rekognition and some of these other tools to identify plays that are happening that are significant in the game and use that data to help cut clips so that you can have almost a condensed game showing up, accumulating in real time. So, if somebody joins a broadcast halfway through … we can go back and isolate those clips and create an ‘up til now’ highlight of the game.”
The next step involved the auto assembly of clips with elements such as transitions and a fade to black. The video content then becomes available to fans via the FOX Sports app and connected TVs/mobile devices.
The partnership between FOX and AWS resulted in cutting-edge AI-based technology that helps fans stay up to date with the game action.
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“We understand that the level of play at events like the World Cup is exceptional, and we wanted our feature to reflect that standard,” Martin noted. “To achieve this, we developed a cutting-edge AI technology to create a highlights engine that can dynamically retell the game's story in real time, highlighting key moments and events as they unfold. This ensures that our users can stay up to date with the action and experience the excitement of the game, no matter where they are.”
All the technology involved in “Catch Up With Highlights” works in unison in an automated fashion.
“We were able to create a highlight engine which pairs with the data feed and then leverages machine learning, specfically computer vision and some audio detection models which synchronizes the events that happen on the field,” FOX's Data Products Director Edward Ciafardini told Fox News Digital.
In addition to Amazon Rekognition, “Catch Up With Highlights” incorporates several AWS services, including but not limited to Amazon DynamoDB, which is where the sports data is housed. Live video is delivered to fans via AWS Elemental MediaConnect, and videos are stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service — Amazon S3.
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“We developed this for the 2022 Men's World Cup and have since rolled this out for other sports, including USFL and MLB. So if you were to join any FOX broadcast on the Fox Sports app or (FoxSports.com) you would be prompted with ‘Do you want to join the game live?’ or ‘Do you want to Catch Up With Highlights?’” Ciafardini said.
FOX also plans to bring the feature to football broadcasts later this year.