At this year's Tour de France, fans have the opportunity to receive insightful and accurate information from an unexpected source - an AI-powered digital human named Marianne. Created by NTT, the official technology partner of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), Marianne serves as a knowledgeable guide, assisting fans with a wide range of queries, from factual questions about the race to predictive inquiries about jersey winners.
Marianne's knowledge is built on an encyclopaedic understanding of the Tour de France, ensuring she can effortlessly answer factual questions with precision. As for her predictive capabilities, NTT's director of program management for new ventures and innovation, Joan Kuhrmann, reveals that Marianne's predictions are on par with those of experienced sports journalists, an omniscient group of individuals renowned for their expertise.
Having been the official technology partner of the Tour de France and its women's counterpart, the Tour de France Femmes, for nine and two years respectively, NTT continuously strives to introduce innovative advancements each year. Marianne made her Tour debut last year as an avatar in a kiosk, but this year, with the power of generative AI, she has deepened her level of conversation, offering more engaging interactions with fans.
While Marianne currently has access to a hard-coded database for static questions, NTT has empowered her with ChatGPT, allowing for more dynamic and interactive discussions. This advancement enables fans to engage with Marianne on a deeper level, fostering a more immersive and informative experience.
Although Marianne's access is currently limited as NTT trials the technology, she is available in select VIP areas and on the NTT Tech Truck. However, the company has expressed its intention to deploy her in the Tour de France mobile app to benefit all fans. Marianne could potentially serve as an AI guide in the chat function, extending her capabilities to provide navigational information and recommendations on where to find food quickly.
NTT's technological prowess extends beyond Marianne, as the company collects a wealth of data throughout the Tour de France. Cyclists are equipped with sensors beneath their saddles, while devices on the course and in the air gather valuable information from operations vehicles. The data is sent via microwave signal to the NTT truck, where an edge computing device processes real-time analytics using a containerised version of their platform.
This cutting-edge technology enables Tour officials and fans to access insights and predictions based on the comprehensive data collected. Officials have access to a digital twin of the entire 2,115-mile course, facilitating real-time monitoring and response to potential challenges. The system also incorporates weather data to help predict weather-related hazards, such as landslides that occurred during the 2019 race.
With AI-powered Marianne and NTT's innovative data processing capabilities, the Tour de France is witnessing a new era of fan engagement and safety, backed by state-of-the-art technology and meticulous real-time insights.