Aug 16, 2021, Business

Tokyo 2020 – olympic games in the world of tech

Aneta Skoczewska Business Consultant

Although modern Olympic Games derived from ancient Greek history, the first event took place in 1896 in Athens. Since then, every four years it has undergone a gradual revolution, becoming a demonstration of first sports-related hi-tech innovations in 1964 Tokyo Olympics. And yes, Japan did it again. Cementing the status of a technology world leader, it led the 2020 games drawing what’s best from branches such as robotics, consumer electronics, aeronautics and the internet of things. And the result? A true XXI century extravaganza. Just see for yourself!

The challenge’s got real

More than 11,600 athletes from 206 nations, 339 sports events in 50 different disciplines, and 15 days of unforgettable olympic emotions. Tokyo 2020 games, held one year later because of the pandemic, required some special security measurements and a unique organization plan. Kept behind closed doors with no public spectators, the event has been broadcasted live all over the world and had to meet the highest standards of modern television. But that’s not it. All the multi-sport athletes needed to have the most convenient conditions to train, regenerate, and rest. And that’s something a smart olympic village could provide.

Intel(ligent) cooperation

The 2020 games were technologically supported by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) worldwide partner – the Intel company. Basing its services on latest tech trends such as: artificial intelligence solutions, 5G platforms, immersive media features, and dedicated IT infrastructure, it was able to bring the event to the next level of innovation. And here are some of the truly revolutionizing examples. 

3D Athlete Tracking

3DAT is a super intelligent, cutting-edge platform that ingests videos from multiple cameras, applies pose estimation and biomechanics algorithms, and thus extracts a 3D form and motion from the athletes. It can be used both to enhance the broadcasting experience of the event, and to train the competitors even better. Acquired data can be integrated into the olympic broadcast and available during 100-, 200-, and 4×100-meters relay or hurdle events replays. 

Intel® True View

By installing small, high-resolution cameras all over the venue, actions can be captured from the entire stadium, enabling 360-degree replays, depictions of movement details, and possible violations invisible to the naked eye.

5G for all

A new sports viewing experience was supported by the use of 5G technology. Thanks to such hi-tech innovation, the games could be livestreamed in ultra-high resolution and appropriate speed. 

2020beat – cheering from a distance

No audience in the stadium doesn’t mean no cheering at all. Thanks to Intel’s AI solutions, sports fans could participate in the Olympics by clapping and dancing to 2020beat and posting the videos on social media. Each of them has been shown on the screens during the competition venues. 

Olympics without drones? No way!

Some of the Games’ silent spectators were over 1,200 drones flying around the Olympic village. Looking at the stadium from a bird’s eye view has been an extraordinary experience for all the audience watching the event from their home screens. 

VR training systems

Advanced VR system powered by Intel® Xeon® and Intel Core processors contributed to a more effective training experience. Such a solution could make athletes’ performance even better, being a crucial part of their terrific results. 

NeoFace large-scale facial recognition

The technology has been used to identify over 3,000 participants of the Games, athletes, media, volunteers, and support staff, in order to enter the points of venues and accommodation. Thanks to this solution, there was no risk of identification fraud. Additionally, nobody needed to wait in long queues for an ID check. 

Esport is a sport, too

In addition to the whole olympic experience, Intel has organized the World Open esports tournament. It took place before the Games, featuring “Street Fighter V” and “Rocket League”. What’s great is that any player could participate and compete for a chance to join the national team. The winners emerged in a live qualifier event in Katowice, Poland, advanced to the championship esports tournament in Tokyo. As the organizer, Intel powered all of the events with the Intel® Core™ i7 gaming processor, as well as the PCs used in the broadcasts and complete backend infrastructure

Timing in Olympic Games – Omega takes it all

As viewers, we don’t really think about how they measure the time during the olympics. What interests us most is the final result. However, without a precise timing instrument the games wouldn’t make much sense. The victory can be a matter of a few milliseconds of advantage between two athletes – and we can’t leave it all to chance.

A pinch of history

So, what you need to know is that the official olympic timekeeper since 1932 is Omega which has developed a lot of modernized solutions ever since. One of them was the first photoelectric cell camera called the “Magic Eye” introduced in 1948 in London. Although it’s been a true revolution, as before an athlete’s performance was measured solely by a human eye and a push of a stopwatch, it’s been still treated with caution. The games were timed with electronics only 20 years later – in the 1968 Mexico Olympics. At that time, photo-finish cameras captured as many as 10 new world records!

And now…

In 2012, Omega introduced its Quantum Timer with a resolution of one millionth of a second and developed ways to monitor the athletes real-time regardless of a discipline they practised. 

Now, the company’s systems are 100% precise, timing swimmers, athletes, gymnasts, equestrians, climbers – you name it. Its in-house AI was even trained to learn beach volleyball and track not only players but also the ball! It recognizes varied shot types: smashes, blocks, spikes, as well as the ball’s flight path, and combines this data with information provided by the gyroscope sensors mounted in players’ clothing. This way, the system knows their direction of movements, speed, height of jumps, etc. Omega states that the system is 99% accurate, and thus the commentary of the live broadcast can be more thorough as well. 

Surfin’ USA

You might think that surfing is a freewheeling sport practiced mainly for fun, but the truth is it can get extremely competitive, too. This year, it had a chance to debut in the Tokyo Olympic Games and didn’t hesitate to use the power of big data techniques for the sake of athletes’ performance. 

The USA surfing organization keeps track of the modern tech and applies artificial intelligence solutions to track surfers’ sleep patterns, heart rate variability, frequency of injuries, or cardiovascular output. To collect the data, they use motion-capture cameras and sensors installed on a plate stand-in for a surfboard. This way, the training is more efficient and athletes have a better chance of avoiding possible injuries. 

Technology helped in choosing the best surfing site for the olympics, too. Using in-depth data from satellites, bathymetric and buoy measurements, wind patterns, and ice cover sensors, the machine learning systems picked Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach, and they hit the jackpot.

Toyota robots – cute, skilled, and helpful

Being a partner of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Toyota supported the event with a few different types of robots deployed in specific roles. 

  1. The official mascot was no longer a man dressed in a huge, funny outfit. This time, the part was overtaken by two robots meeting and greeting the crowds and posing for cute selfies. Large, anime-eyed blue Miraitowa and pink Someity bots worked as remote-controlled robotic entertainers. Maybe they’re not the most advanced bots on earth, but their cameras recognize facial expressions which gives them an ability to respond with a head nod, blinking eyes and handshakes. 
  2. Life-sized, humanoid robot, T-HR3, is happy to high-five the athletes and even hold a conversation. It’s controlled by a human operator equipped with VR goggles and an exoskeleton that a robot mirrors. 
  3. For those unable to attend the Olympics in person, Toyota Research Institute created the T-TR1 telepresence robot, giving fans an opportunity to virtually interact with athletes. A large, vertical screen displayed a live image of a remote participant and the mounted camera gave an impression of being in the stadium. Some of the spectators were lucky enough to use the wheeled communicator which allowed them to move around the venue while a robot displayed a life-size representation of their body.
  4. The 2020 Olympics also had their own mechanical waiter and accessibility enabler called a Delivery Support Robot. This automated helper commanded by an app was eager to bring food and drinks to audiences placed in wheelchair-accessible seats.
  5. There was also a Human Support Robot guiding guests that needed mobility assistance to their seats and providing them with timely event information.
  6. A robot working as a Field Event Support followed operations staff and navigated to fetch javelins, hammers or discus thrown by athletes. This way, the organizers were able to reduce the time of retrieving the items as well as the number of staff involved. 
  7. Toyota e-Palette autonomous vehicle’s job was transporting competitors and support staff to and from the main arenas and accommodations. It was equipped with soothing lights and color schemes to de-stress the athletes. What’s more, to provide the maximum of security, the cabin was ventilated after opening the wide doors and the frequent-touch points were covered with antiviral coatings and films. 

Chat bubble real-time translator

It’s obvious that participants from more than 200 nations speak various languages. To streamline the overall communication during the event, Panasonic created Fukidashi – a chat bubble that is able to translate in real-time. The device comprises two screens that translate what speakers say and allow them to communicate freely in their own languages. 

The games came to an end

We know that technology rushes forward so quickly that in three years time, during the Olympic Games in France, we’ll be able to see it develop to the level that’ll probably leave us speechless. Although Tokyo 2020 was held in such uneasy times, with a year delay and without an actual live audience, it was still a highly advanced undertaking. And we’re actually quite excited about the next innovations in sports to come, working in this area ourselves. 

Want to check the sports solutions we created? Check our case studies section.