Athletes are not the only ones competing at this year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. Spectators will encounter a number of competing technologies. From robot greeters and drones that improve the spectator experience, to smart helmets and tech suits to help Olympians, technology is the hidden star of the Winter Olympics. Below is a round-up of some of the leading-edge technology being used at the games.
Robots vs. Drones
South Korea is using 85 very different robots during the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. One robot taking center stage is a humanoid created by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. The robot has the ability to walk and even held the Olympic torch in South Korea on Dec. 11. Additionally, several paint robots can draw murals on venue walls, while delivery robots and “fishing robots” are being used across several venues. Speaking robots will be providing information on schedules, transport, and attractions, and have the ability to speak Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and English.
Not to be outdone by robots, drones are also playing a prominent role at the Olympics, providing broadcasting, entertainment, and security services. Drones are being deployed for light shows during the opening and closing ceremonies, and for filming various Olympic events. Not only are drones providing a bird’s-eye view, but they are also capturing angles during filming that traditional cameras have been challenged to record.
Olympians Gear Up
During training, two Dutch speed skaters were equipped with suits outfitted with sensors which will provide real-time body position data to their coaches. Smartphone software analyzes their racing posture and suggests improvements that the coaches can relay back to the skaters via a band on the athletes’ wrists.
Multi-Directional Impact Protection (MIPS) helmets are being worn by some members of the U.S. ski team. The helmets are designed to help mitigate head trauma from crashes that can reach speeds of 90+ miles per hour. The helmets feature ball-and-socket style slip planes that help reduce rotational movement during an angled impact. In addition, the shell of the helmet features a “hammerhead” design that is supposed to reduce the impact from slalom gates. A number of skiers are also wearing vests that operate like a vehicle airbag. The vest features seven sensors that can detect when the racer is losing control and about to crash, prompting them to inflate to Incredible Hulk proportions.
Faster is Better
In November 2017, the South Korean government announced the completion of a £2.7bn “bullet train,” the Korea Train Express (KTX) line from Seoul to Pyeongchang. The trains can travel at 300kph and the journey takes 69 minutes rather than three hours by car. And, once you are at the games, transportation between the event’s 12 venues can be accomplished via self-driving buses.
There is another kind of speed at the Olympics this year, too. Pyeongchang introduced a 5G mobile network at all games venues. Although South Korea already has the fastest broadband in the world (an average of 28.6Mbps compared to the UK’s 16.9), 5G will boost connectivity and enhance live streaming.
Technology is also playing a bigger role in broadcasting the games. The Pyeongchang games have the most widespread use of 360-degree virtual reality (VR) cameras of any major global sports event, giving remote viewers a more immersive experience than ever. TV viewers can even choose viewing points at Olympic venues, such as front row seats, through VR and 360 video.
These emerging technologies are on the world stage for the next two weeks, as thousands of athletes compete for gold and millions of spectators cheer them on. Thanks to high-tech innovations, South Korea is on track to become a game-changing Olympic host.
Stay tuned for our next blog posts, which will explore how some of these emerging technologies made their way to the Olympic games and whether there are any legal hurdles.