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IBM Return Serve



Our challenge was to develop a creative concept to amplify the involvement of IBM with the Australian Open. We needed to showcase and celebrate IBM’s ongoing technological partnership with Tennis Australia. 


The answer was IBM ReturnServe. An activation which used live data captured and analysed by IBM to re- create the serve you just saw live on Rod Laver arena, only 6 seconds later.

IBM ReturnServe was built around the use of an emergent technology never before used in Australia
 – at least not commercially. At its core was an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset with a specially-designed gyroscopic racquet. The combination of the two allowed the data feed from your swing to be broadcast into the experience. This technology allowed us to move away from just another computer screen or mobile app and into a truly immersive experience. And through the use of live data we ensured that every visitor got a different experience. 


Pop-up virtual courts were built on four sites across Melbourne and Sydney – where the live serves of Federer, Nadal, Williams and Sharapova and 49 other star players were available in near-real-time.

Fans were transported to a digitised Rod Laver Arena, staring across the net at the player currently on court via a virtual reality headset. Users had two opportunities to return the same serve, using the specially designed racquets which fed their swing data into the experience. From there we provided further data analysis, insights and tips before they had a second, more informed attempt.

Finally we took the player through a data fly-through to give them a view of the data snapshot taken at that exact moment in the match. This allowed them to view and explore the depth of information and analysis IBM performs with every point played.


This made data simple, accessible, even beautiful
 – no longer was it just numbers on a screen. It was now an enabler of an emotive experience. One that changed your perception of the game of tennis and ultimately be a true demonstration of the technology and ingenuity IBM brings to the event.