The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are underway in PyeongChang and viewers are once again captivated as the world’s best athletes compete for Olympic gold. So much talent and patriotism is packed into only a few short weeks that it takes little time to get lost in the incredible displays of heart and athleticism at each Olympic event. It is, after all, the spirit of the Olympics that makes for such an amazing and emotional world stage. However, some of this year's spotlight clearly belongs to the technological advances present in every aspect of the Olympic Games.
South Korea, this year’s host country and home to technological juggernauts Samsung and LG, has managed to seamlessly integrate innovation into their modernized take on this world event. This year, many viewers have been able to immerse themselves in the games through the first-ever Olympic virtual reality broadcast featuring live and video-on-demand content, while others have been able to pick-and-choose from more than 2,400 hours of Olympic coverage available on the NBC Sports app and through several subscription streaming services. Even more amazing is that the attendees of the Olympic games have already been greeted by multilingual robot guides at the airport, transported between events in Hyundai’s self-driving buses, and experienced a beautifully choreographed aerial drone light show at this year’s Opening Ceremony.
Not only has tech impacted the way we experience the Olympics, but it is changing the way athletes train to push the limits of human capabilities. Looking back two years to Rio and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, we began to see the value of data analytics as it is applied to athletic performance. Typically, performance data is interpreted to improve the biomechanics and exercise physiology of an individual or a team of athletes. In Rio, data analytics was used by rowing teams to find the ideal balance between training for strength and endurance. Swimmers trained using digital underwater lap counters that recorded times and lap counts whenever a pool wall sensor was touched by the athletes, and rugby teams trained using sensors that measured their health, speed, and power on the field.
Since Rio, many winter athletes have also incorporated analytical feedback into their training strategies. We have also seen a rise in the number of athletes who continue data collection beyond training and throughout the actual Olympic games - an example of this being the Samsung SmartSuits worn by two Dutch short track speed skaters. Each SmartSuit is embedded with five sensors capable of measuring body posture and other factors that can help to increase each skaters overall speed. The data captured is processed in real time and sent to their coach via an app, and a vibration can be sent to the wrist of each athlete to advise them to correct their posture as necessary.
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