Innovation at Tokyo 2020
Retired British Alpine team skier and Amplifi Solutions’ entrepreneurial tax consultant Jan-Michael Kochalski, talks about the technological innovation at Tokyo 2020.
Whenever the Olympics (summer or winter) comes to our screens, it always makes me think back to my own days as a professional athlete, working day in day out on the slopes and behind the scenes. These were, without a doubt, the toughest but most rewarding years of my life. What isn’t always recognised, however, are the years of technological endeavours required to get to that point.
The Olympics not only showcases athletic prowess, but it also highlights the best of the host country’s culture, infrastructure and economy. So, it was hardly surprising that Tokyo, who introduced the world to the bullet train at the 1964 games, chose to spotlight their robotic and automation technologies at these games. Accompanied with other Olympic technological advances, we have witnessed the most futuristic games to date, where technology has helped keep athletes and their support team safe during a pandemic and viewers virtually close to the action.
Robotics and AI
Olympic partners Toyota developed many robotic technologies for the games, such as the official Tokyo 2020 robot mascots, Miraitowa and Someity.
In the track and field events, we saw AI-powered Field Support Robots retrieving equipment. While the maybe slightly underused Delivery Support Robots were developed to bring spectators snacks. However, the robotic entertainment star of the games was CUE the basketball playing AI robot that never missed a basket.
Toyota’s robots also helped some people virtually attend the games. The T-TR1 displayed almost life-size images of remote users on its screen and allowed for two-way conversations, While the T-HR3 a humanoid robot relayed sounds and images from around the games to users.
Immersive Viewing Experience
Tokyo 2020 brought viewers closer to the action with Ultra High-Definition pictures, multi-camera replay systems and more live virtual reality coverage.
3D Athlete tracking technology (3DAT), was also introduced to deliver real-time sport performance overlays during some sprint events. While Panasonic’s Contactless Virtual Sensing cameras were able to read and display archery competitors’ heartrates.
Additionally, fans could send virtual cheer videos during live events, which were displayed as mosaic tile videos on large screens in venues.
Security and Safety
To combat queuing, crowding and improve ID checks, Intel developed an AI powered facial recognition technology called Neoface, that was used to identify over 300,000 faces at the games. Athletes and their teams also benefited from transport around the games via Toyota’s e-Pallette automated self-driving vehicles.
Olympic workers also got technological help. Panasonic’s Power Assist Suits supported their hips and backs as they transported heavy objects. While the Alibaba Group’s earpieces monitored their heartrate and temperature and alerted them if they were at risk of heatstroke.
Finally, Tokyo 2020 is claiming to be the most sustainable Olympics yet, with net zero emissions. As an example of this, they retrofitted a lot of existing venues for the games, instead of building new ones. Their podiums where 3D printed using recyclable plastic and the Olympic medals are made from the precious metals out of recycled mobile phones. Athletes slept on recyclable cardboard beds and vehicles were powered by various renewable fuels, whilst for the first time the Olympic flame was fuelled by hydrogen.
Overall, it’s hard to imagine elite sport reaching the heights of this Olympics without the incredible technological advances by the engineering teams. However, it’s worth noting that it’s also an amazing place to showcase innovation as a whole.
An injury suffered in a competition in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympics meant that I didn’t ever get to compete at the pinnacle of the sport, which was incredibly tough to take. However, as I reflect now, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about my time in the sport. It taught me to set targets and that nothing can beat honest hard work – attributes which have helped to serve me well in my “second” career. I love that with Amplifi Solutions I still get to see first hand how UK businesses are taking the next steps to creating products which will change the world.