Using AI in Real Life: Today’s Fan Experience at the Ballpark

Scott Cutler, StubHub President

StubHub President Scott Cutler on how artificial intelligence is making live events even more fun.

“Cortana, are the Giants in town this week?”

“Siri, what’s the weather forecast for San Francisco this weekend?”

“Alexa, is there anything on my calendar for Sunday?”

When my family and I decide that it’s time to hit the ballpark, I’ll ask my phone (or one of the other devices around my home and office) this series of questions. And in the time it takes for a breaking ball to get from a pitcher’s hand across home plate, I’ll have all the answers.

For my family, as well as many other fans, finding out that the hometown team is taking the field on a beautiful summer day is just the beginning of a larger experience that is increasingly influenced by artificial intelligence (AI). Thanks to a rapidly growing number of smart devices and AI technologies to power them, interactions with the now-familiar Alexa, Siri, Cortana and others are making it easier than ever for consumers to access live events.

What should I do this weekend?  

Even before you decide you may want to attend an event, AI goes to work. For example, a scan of your social media activity can surface where you tend to go and what you tend to do, in order to make personalized recommendations for new and relevant ideas for going out. Or, as you build that Spotify playlist of new songs to share with your friends, a library-scanning tool can compare your new playlist to a set of upcoming concerts and let you know when your favorite artists are performing in your area.

Voice assistants depend on AI-powered software that learns your habits as you use it. But even if you don’t know the difference between a HomePod and a home run, or you haven’t yet made the investment in an Echo or Google Home, there are plenty of other ways to use more familiar tools and discover cool events through AI. For instance, since we launched the StubHub chatbot for Facebook Messenger in April, it has acted as a personal event concierge for those users with questions like the ones I asked about the baseball game: “Are there any tickets available for the Yankees tonight?” or “U2’s show in Santa Clara was amazing. How quickly can I see them again?” As StubHub’s chatbot - or others - responds with follow-up questions and recommendations, event-goers are brought even closer to that night out on the town.

At the rate that AI technology is evolving, event discovery will only continue to get smarter and more personalized. I predict that very soon, as a fan searches for live events – through whichever discovery system they’ve chosen - smarter and smarter technologies will be able to propose not only shows and games, but even dates, times, and seating based on individual preferences.

What do I need to be ready for my night out?

Have you planned your ride to the stadium? If you’re going to use a ride-sharing app, you’re already interacting with another form of AI. These popular apps use machine learning to minimize your wait time once you call for a car by matching you with the closest driver, as well as determining the price of your ride. If you’re pooling with other customers, AI technology finds other riders that will be taking a similar route, to minimize your time in the car.

When you finally make it to the venue, you’re likely to snap a picture to share on social media. Networks like Facebook use image recognition technology to recognize the faces of your friends and family in the photo, making sharing your memories quick and seamless.

Even after the event ends, AI still operates in the background, using the show or team you just saw to learn from and inform future recommendations. At StubHub, for instance, we analyzed our data to learn that NFL fans have a high propensity to also go to concerts, and that certain artists resonate with certain teams. People who bought tickets to a Denver Broncos game were most likely to have also bought tickets to see Kenny Chesney. And in San Francisco where I live, 49ers fans most often bought tickets to see The Grateful Dead. With this intelligence, we at StubHub can make sure we’re contacting our customers with information on events they actually want to see.

Where will we go next?

Every time I walk into the AT&T Park to cheer on the Giants, I like to think about the next steps we can take to enhance our customers’ experiences through AI. Shaping our offerings and recommendations more closely to consumer choices remains on the top of our minds at StubHub. As AI-infused systems grow more hyper-personalized, a fan’s night out will be so tailored to them that every event has the potential to be their best one ever.

Can we recommend specific food to folks at the ballpark, based on their likes, dislikes, or restaurants they’ve visited recently? How can we use voice commands during a festival to answer fan questions about bands and songs? What if a messaging bot arranged your safe ride home from a concert? And can we pool all of this information to continue to personalize and improve the customer experience overall?

I’m excited about the work we’ve done to help fans get their ticket out. But we’re just at the cusp of AI-assisted event-going, so I’d love to hear what would make your event even better. As Cortana says to me, “What can I do to help?”


Editor's Note:  This article originally appeared on Scott Cutler's LinkedIn Channel.