Japan has been a leader in technology and innovation for decades. However, with ever-growing competition from Silicon Valley and China, the Olympics is being seen as a platform for the country to showcase its prowess.
The world of sports is no stranger to the use of technology and now it has significantly changed sports’ biggest stage, the Olympic. The Tokyo Olympic Games may have been delayed by a year but technological innovations accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic promise to make the event more immersive by bringing athletes closer to an even wider fan base. Let’s have a look at how technology is powering Tokyo Olympics 2020…
3D Digital Twinning
3D Digital Twinning coupled with cloud-rendering technology makes it possible to simulate tracks, camera deployments, stadium seating, and in-stadium navigation services through 5G-powered VR for the benefit of athletes, broadcasters, spectators, and venue owners. Intel’s 3D digital twinning technology also creates a virtual replica of stadiums that helps athletes prepare better for their races.
Just ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, the organising committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games unveiled four new futuristic robots which will be deployed to assist spectators, athletes, and officials at competition venues and to relay sound, images, and physical feedback from venues to those watching remotely. Tokyo 2020 Mascot type robots will welcome athletes and guests at the game’s venues and other related locations with human-like movements such as shaking hands and waving, and with a variety of facial expressions. With the COVID-19 outbreak, robots have become hugely important because they enable remote operation and allow humans to avoid direct contact in high-risk situations.
Motion-tracking Wearable Tech
Wearable technology in particular has been one of the more recent tools in the Olympic arsenal. Wearable fitness and motion trackers have been around since before the 2012 London games, but improvements in tracking and analytic software have turned simple trackers into a now integral part of training for many Olympic athletes. One of the key benefits of wearable tech is its ability to provide information that wasn’t previously available. In Tokyo, Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group and US chip maker Intel partnered to run a 3D athlete tracking system that allows coaches to probe into every minute movement of their Olympic athletes. Coaches can tweak training methods of players based on the real-time data provided by the system.
Alibaba Cloud has partnered with Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) to enable the global audiences to watch the grand event via the cloud. The cloud broadcasting solution boosts efficiencies lost through offline and labor-based production while cutting costs significantly. In addition, OBS will provide 3D athlete tracking technology, which enables viewers to see each athlete’s real-time running speed, and offers analysis of the different stages of the race in detail.
The organizing committee and athletes have turned to 3D printing to realize environmental recycle and gain a competitive edge. China’s Anta Sports has produced 3D-printed shoes for the boxing team that it said offered better protection and fit. The brand’s anti grab technology of fabric employed for wrestling is expected to reduce the likelihood of being grasped by the opponent. In another use of 3D printing, Procter & Gamble (P&G) in partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the International Olympics Committee unveiled 3D printed podiums for the games’ award ceremonies. Built out of plastic recycled from over 2,000 Japanese locations, and featuring an Olympic logo made from repurposed aluminium, the podiums will be used throughout both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. P&G plans the plastic to be recycled again, living their third life as P&G product packaging.
Virtual Olympic Festival
COVID-19 restrictions have made a physical gathering impossible this year and this is where Virtual Reality (VR) comes in. Just four days before the official opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games about 850,000 people logged in to watch an online festival taking place in a virtual Olympic stadium. Children from around the world were invited to submit artwork to be shown during the live event. Further, the Virtual Arenas are helping to offer an immersive training environment for staff, improving the effectiveness and reducing costs.
Facial recognition has grown by leaps and bounds in the recent years, thanks to neural networks. It’s the first time the Olympics have used that facial recognition technology. Intel has teamed up with NEC on a system that can identify 300,000 people–including athletes, volunteers, staff, and members of the media–at venues and accommodation. The objective speed up ID checks for accredited people and reduce waiting time.
5G to Power-up Fan Experiences
The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) in cooperation with Intel Corporation, Nippon Telegraph, and Telephone Corporation (NTT), and NTT DOCOMO, Inc., will be showcasing innovative sports viewing experiences deploying the very latest 5G technology at three competition venues during the Tokyo 2020 Games. This includes broadcasts of ultra-high resolution videos and simultaneous multipoint videos leveraging the high-speed and capacity offered by 5G technology, as well as an AR experience that takes advantage of 5G’s low latency.
Technology will not only play a pre-eminent role for the viewers but also the athletes. It will allow not only for social distancing but enhanced digital interaction. With an increase in wearables and better tracking software, the big data will play a much larger role in Tokyo 2020 as well as other sporting events. The innovations accelerated by the global pandemic will give us the chance to experience the games like never before. These innovations will also trickle down to other sporting experiences in the years to come.