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Hi-tech Wimbledon

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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LONDON – The oldest tennis tournament, now in its 133rd year, is unsurprisingly steeped in tradition.But the Wimbledon Championships have not been left behind the times when it comes to embracing the benefits of modern technology.The All England Club, which stages the tournament, has adopted gadgets to assist the umpires and the players during matches.For the best part of two decades, the tennis world has joined forces with computing firm IBM.Alan Flack, IBM’s Wimbledon executive, said the partnership’s focus is on managing and processing data.“What we do here is an enormous data management exercise – collecting data, presenting it, visualising it in different ways for different audiences, and making it available across all sorts of media platforms,” he said.Umpires update the score by tapping away at PDAs, while a team of data collectors overlooking each court log every moment of the action.They use a special keypad to log the type of shots in a rally and enter detailed information about exactly how each point is won.This data then makes its way down some 35 miles of cable to the Wimbledon Information Centre where it is processed further.The players and their trainers have access to the stats which are also sent to other outlets such as the Wimbledon website and broadcasters.Tennis fans have also adopted gadgets to enhance their Wimbledon experience, especially as live spectators at the grounds.Android or iPhone owners can use technologies embedded in their mobile phones to access data tagged to their location.Augmented reality applications use the handset’s GPS and built-in compass to overlay a virtual layer over the real-world environment.Users onsite can turn on their phone’s camera and point it around the complex to find out the nearest toilets, food outlets, and check the scores on various courts.They also have access to a live video stream of all the matches.“To make sure we’re giving the best quality video that we can, we’re using a combination of local wi-fi networks that are available and also boosting the 3G network using local pico masts,” said Mark Sweatman, technology head at developer Ogilvy One.“These are positioned around the ground so that as people move around they can get the best bandwidth possible for their devices and see the highest quality video streams,” he added.For a TV audience who cannot make it to Wimbledon, broadcasters have also been working to improve their coverage.Recently broadcasts have been made available in high-definition, and 3D is set to make its mark within a couple of years.An application has also been in development by the BBC with partner organisations across the UK.“It’s a static 3D model and what we’ve done is to work out the exact position of the various cameras in the scene so we know where to embed the images in the display. Then there are various pre-defined view points and you can fly between them,” said Graham Thomas from BBC Research and Development.The low-res model will be replaced with hi-res imagery and the hard borders of the video feed will be far more integrated into the model itself.“The ambition would be to, for example, separate out the players so that you are getting just the foreground live action,” Thomas said.“If you can put the players in, you get a feeling for where they are in the court, which court they are in, without the obvious division between what was model and what was video.”