As all eyes have recently been on the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, companies all around the world have been searching for ways to promote themselves during the Games. Baidu, China’s largest search engine, is no exception. Meet Duer, a voice-activated virtual personal assistant, not unlike Siri or Cortana, created and built by Baidu.

Baidu Inc

Baidu builds sports commentary robot of the future

In September 2015, the search engine giant stuffed its AI technology into a small, robot-like piece of plastic, Now, the engineers at Baidu have come up with Duer’s best function to date: replacing sports commentators.
“Sports broadcasting usually relies on statistics and analysis of a large volume of data for both matches and players which can be a strength of AI (artificial intelligence) against a human being,” says Wu Tian, head of Baidu’s matural learning processing team.

Yang Yi, a well-known sports commentator in China, has announced basketball games with Duer. Even though Duer is just a voice, it can give the latest updates on a game, answer any sort of technical questions, and even make jokes. Yang said he was very excited to cover a game with a robot.

“I’ve been a sports commentator for many years and have had many partner with great chemistry. It’s the first time I co-host with a robot,” says Yang. “Because often the emotions involved in commenting on a game is what the audience is looking for, I’m not worried yet that they will replace me but I think the creativity and innovation behind it is great.”

Duer not only commentator, functions as a smartphone app as well

Duer can also perform on its own, as it can function as a smartphone application the can give the latest information on a game by audio or by text so users can check on their favorite teams whenever they want.

“During the Olympics, we want to bring Artificial Intelligence and Duer to more people’s lives,” says Jing Kun, chief product architect of Baidu Search Service Group. “Traditionally, sports commentating is a one-way thing. Now, with AI, audiences can ask questions and become more involved. If they are interested in one particular player, they can choose to only follow that player’s information.”

“AI is making profound impacts on our society,” says Wu Tian. “As the technology progresses, it will become an indispensable pillar for live sports commentary in the future.”