This Summer we’ve all been tuned in to the 2016 Olympics, and we’ve seen many new gadgets shown off by both the TV crews and the athletes. This article will take a look at Matchbox’s top tech picks from Rio.
Although wearables such as the Fitbit, and Garmin Vivosmart HR+ have been prominently in the market over the past few years, it is clear to see that athletes have gained some real usage out of them at this year’s Olympics. Many people may see them as fashion accessories, but wearables have many capabilities. They are able to collect and provide data from day-to-day activities, like step counting, to providing health information via heart rate tracking. All types of wearables from glasses to payment rings have been seen in Rio. Visa was the only type of payment card accepted at the Olympics, so with this in mind they simplified payments for athletes, as well as employees, by creating the first ever Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled ring; with one simple touch, a transaction is complete. The NFC ring is now available for pre order due to the huge success it had at the games.
Training is key for athletes, and for a long time coaches have been their main critics. However, advanced wearables are now able to provide individuals with an in-depth analysis of their activities. Some are even specifically aimed at a particular action: the VERT Wearable Jump Monitors were used by the USA Volleyball team in Rio, with Karch Kiraly – Head Coach stating,
“VERT allows us to track our training loads in a way that’s never been done before. It’s already helping us train smarter and better preserve our most precious resource: our athletes and their health”.
The jump monitor provides a simple way of keeping track of training, and a record of critical measurements.
In sports over the years there have been disputes over scoring, and many debates on how to make scoring as accurate and as fair as possible. Sports that require referees cannot always give 100% certainty in the decisions, as there is always room for human error. To tackle this issue at the Olympics, both Volleyball and Beach Volleyball had the option to challenge a referee’s decision with the added help of video playback. This was played to both a second referee, and on screen in the arena. However, it is yet to be known whether this added pressure helps, or whether it increases the risk of mistakes and second guessing.
Rio 2016 also brought technology improvements to the scoring of Archery, Shooting, and Taekwondo. Archery events added a high-tech sensor system that was able to report an arrow’s entry point within 0.2mm, and display the score within one second. This new technology cancelled out the need for a referee’s judgment. Shooting events also upgraded their technology, using laser tracking to ensure even more accurate results than the previously used electronic targets. One sport that has been hit with controversy during Olympic games is Taekwondo, particularly at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when a winning kick was missed by the referee. The losing team appealed using video evidence, marking a first in taekwondo history where a decision had been overturned. In the London 2012 Olympics, sensor equipped vests were introduced to assist in scoring. In addition to this, headgear with sensors were added to the 2016 Rio games, to avoid any issues regarding justifying points given.
During every Olympics, broadcasters and photographers capture thousands of images and recordings, some capturing the most iconic moments in sporting history. The technology used to convey these images to the public has drastically changed since the first black and white TV coverage in 1936.
During the 2012 Olympics, BBC were first to broadcast live in 3D, with the help of 33 True 3D cameras, and in 2016 NBC introduced a virtual reality feature, streaming 85 hours onto the NBC sports app for those with a virtual reality headset.
Robotic cameras were introduced in the 2012 London Olympics, and made another appearance this year in Rio. This time the robotic cameras were also used underwater during swimming events by Getty photographers. These robotic cameras were able to be controlled from the poolside, while the devices themselves were attached to the pool floor, capturing and transmitting new video angles. The added ability to maneuver the camera at a faster pace, and offer better angles, allowed photographers to improve their chance of capturing historical moments.
At nearly every Olympics there have been debates regarding false starts and close finishes. Omega, the official timekeeper of the Olympics since 1932 (when stopwatches were accurate to one fifth of a second), introduced the Myria camera at the Rio Games. The Myria can record 10,000 digital images per second, which can help decide the difference between a Gold Medal and a World Record for athletes.
In terms of the introduction of new and improved technology, the 2016 Rio Olympics gave us a useful snapshot of how tech is boosting sports and competition; Tokyo will no doubt take things further!