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Technology in the Olympics: How It’s Changing the Game

Regan Schiappa

Regan Schiappa

The Olympics is known for the hard work and dedication of athletes – not to mention gold medals! But will the Olympics soon be known for new tech innovations? This summer’s games held in Japan, a country known for its cutting-edge innovations, introduced a new wave of sports technology and put it to use. We saw Olympic sports athletes leverage tech for a range of goals, whether it’s for practice or for competition.

Training With Tech

Tech proved its importance in athletes’ training in many ways. One example that many amateur athletes can relate to was the use of wearables to measure vitals and performance of athletes so they could push beyond their limits while also preventing injuries.

Wearable tech has been on the rise since the 2016 Olympics and has become an essential asset to many. Athletes can track and analyze their performance,

creating augmented reality training and 3D modeling. Wearable tech can play a critical role in other training technology from watches to VR headsets. For example, some cyclists used augmented reality glasses to create simulations of the same track that they were going to be racing on in Japan. At the same time, wearables monitored their vital rates, which is important in tracking the athlete’s level of exertion

Swimmers, also benefited from the wearables and more, using starting blocks and high-speed cameras in tandem with wearable tech to measure force, movement, and vitals.

Tech That Won Gold During the Games

Although this year’s games did not allow spectators because of COVID-19, technology was able to bring to the life every leap, dive and flip right from the comfort of your home.  The storytelling paramount to the games was made possible for both viewers and athletes thanks to dozens of cameras recording.

These cameras aren’t the same ones you use for home videos, the cameras were a part of a 3-D tracking system that supplied spectators with near-instantaneous insights into each step of a race or competition. The Intel product, 3D Athlete-Tracking, captures images from multiple cameras and combines them using artificial intelligence to show the sporting action from every angle. Live footage then feeds into the cloud where an artificial intelligence program used deep learning to analyze athlete’s’ movements and identify key performance characteristics. For example, these metrics included top speed and deceleration of track athletes. The system then shared that information with viewers by displaying slow-motion graphics of the action, highlighting key moments. And get this, the whole process, from capturing the footage to sharing the analysis, took less than 30 seconds.

While families and loved ones missed cheering on the games in person, athletes missed them as well. Tech was able to bring a form of normalcy via screens in venues that displayed a montage of selfie videos sent in from around the world. Crafting a truly virtual experience.

Future of Tech in the Olympics

The technology that was on display in Tokyo suggests that the future of elite athletics not only comes from pushing physicality but through gathering data about the human body and putting that into practice. Three trends that we are seeing are the adoption of big data and AI, new virtual viewing experience, and technology optimizing training and performance.

AI is not only a buzz word in the tech industry. It’s now being applied in sports conversations. One innovation we could see more of at the next Olympics is 3D digital twinning, which has been used to create a virtual replication of stadiums. This is beneficial to athletes because they can embrace the right mindset needed for the competing environment while they are training. It will also be used to examine an athlete’s technique. For example, and innovation like force-sensing resistors in footwear. This provides additional data for runners during training on foot placement, optimizing technique.

The viewing experience is set to become more immersive than ever before. Anyone with a smartphone will be able to experience what an Olympic athlete is experiencing in real-time, or even relive the exact moment when history was made. Viewers will be able to experience all the thrills, speed, sweat, and adrenaline rush of the final lap of the 1500m or the last minute of a tie game from the perspective of their favorite athletes.

The last trend we are seeing, will optimize training and performance among athletes. Nano patches, chips, and energy harvesting technology have been brought up in conversations for athlete training. The chip or nano patch will be placed into the athlete’s arm and used to measure their vitals and performance every single second, giving instant feedback on what to do during a game, or training: when to rest, what to eat, everything you need for optimal performance.

With only 4 years to the next Olympic games, technology will have time to advance and impact the training and performance of future medal winning athletes.