I, as it seems most of the world was, was struck by the use of technology in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. It got me thinking about the use of cutting-edge technology in the Olympics and its ability to predict future uses and trends of technology.
The Olympics have a history of innovation. Nations often introduce revolutionary new technologies to the world at the Olympic Games. In 1912, the Stockholm Summer Games was the first time electronic stopwatches were used on a mass scale. In 1936, the Berlin Summer Games was the first time a sporting event was broadcast live on television. In 1964, the Tokyo Summer Games was the debut of the shinkansen, the world’s first high-speed bullet train.
The Pyeongchang Olympics served as the testing ground for the largest 5G wireless network showcase yet. Companies also unleashed self-driving cars, high speed video streaming, and virtual reality viewing.
Emerging tech in Japan is going to change the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Masa Takaya, spokesperson for the Tokyo Organizing Committee, said that the committee is on track to deliver the most innovative games in Olympic history.
Here are a few of their plans:
- Robot Village – Japan is already a worldwide leader in robotics technology. They plan to have a village of robots at people’s beck and call. The village will be adjacent to Tokyo’s Odaiba neighborhood, which will also serve as the athletes’ Olympic Village. Visitors will be able to call for nearby robots to help with language translation, directions, or beckon for transportation.
The famous 60-foot tall Gundam statue in the Odaiba neighborhood.
- TV Broadcasts in 8K – Japanese state television network NHK plans to air the Olympic Games in ultra-vivid 8K.
- 5G Wireless Connections – Tokyo expects well over half a million foreign visitors at the Olympics who will all be attempting to use their phones. Intel, carrier NTT DoCoMo, and automaker Toyota all announced their partnerships for the 2020 Olympics, and they wasted no time announcing plans to market their 5G tech capabilities. Intel has promised to blanket the city in 5G, turning it into a “smart city” with video streams everywhere. Toyota has suggested they will use 5G for traffic management. Alibaba Cloud also believes their technology could be used to help organizers with traffic-management and tourists. One of their services is an artificial intelligence-powered system that helps cities mitigate their traffic congestion problems. DoCoMo has partnered with Nokia to develop 5G wireless so networks can run at high frequencies.
- Algae-Fueled Airlines – Japan wants to use algae as a fuel source for jets and buses. Boeing has already signed on and is eyeing an eventual worldwide rollout. Algae is a clean and efficient fuel source, but making biofuel from it is an expensive procedure. Boeing has partnered with over 40 organizations to attempt to bring this to life.
- Hydrogen-Powered Buses and Buildings – The government plans to spend up to $330M on making the Olympic Village completely hydrogen-powered. They plan to build pipes underground to directly funnel the gas onsite and to bring 100 fuel cell-powered buses to transport people.
- Instant Language Translation – With over 206 National Olympic Committees sending athletes to Tokyo, Japan is working to make strides in instant language translation. VoiceTra, a real-time translation app, supports 27 languages. Panasonic is working on a small device to be worn around the neck that will translate Japanese into ten languages instantly. They also plan to provide visitors with an app that scans signs and translates them on the spot.
- Self-Driving Taxis – These will be used to bring athletes and tourists to stadiums. DeNA, the Japanese gaming giant, plans to get driverless taxis on the roads by the Olympics.
- Maglev Trains – Japan introduced the shinkansen train at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and is now hoping to make another leap forward with their next-generation high-speed rail system technology: magnetic levitation. Maglev chains are already in use in Shanghai and other cities around the world, but Japan is hoping to introduce the fastest one.
- Facial Recognition – Facial recognition technology for all accredited officials is due to be a part of the security plan at the 2020 Olympics. Identification cards will contain chips allowing facial recognition technology to automatically verify their identity at all checkpoints. It aims to prevent entry using borrowed, stolen, or counterfeit ID cards, while also reducing line times.
- 3D Lasers – The Japanese Gymnastics Association and Fujitsu Ltd. are working together to adapt the use of three-dimensional lasers and data processing to the gymnastics judging system. Fujitsu’s 3D laser sensors and data processing technology will discern athlete’s joint position and technique, which will be combined with the association’s expertise in recognizing proper gymnastics technique. They hope this system will help the judges since it is difficult to accurately judge and score a performance with the naked eye.
These experimental, emerging technologies are difficult to bring to market due to their cost and timing, but Takaya is confident in their ability to implement these technologies due to their “top-tier corporate sponsors investing in innovation towards 2020.” Takaya also said there are efforts in place to keep costs down. The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the national government are working closely to control the $12.6B budget.
As a tech hub of the world, people are hopeful of their ability to implement these cutting-edge technologies in the 2020 Olympics. It will be fascinating to see if Tokyo is able to implement these technologies and the impact that will have on the use and spread of technology moving forward.