Artificial Intelligence for sports

Artificial intelligence is changing the way we communicate with each other. It is changing the way we unlock our mobile phones using face recognition technology. And it is also changing the way we train, track our results and enjoy watching our favourite sports. 

The organizers of The Olympic Games, held in Tokyo, Japan in 2021, invested extensively in research and development to ensure that the games were the most technologically advanced ever. Artificial intelligence, automated translation, facial recognition technology, and even 3-D athlete tracking were among some of the new technologies that we saw in Tokyo.

In this blog post, we will look at some of the innovations that AI brought to the Olympic Games held in Tokyo and that may well become more common in our daily lives. 

Real-time translations with pop-up chat bubbles & clouds

Imagine a comic book with characters speaking to each other through images of pop-up chat bubbles or through clouds. That world is what Japan wanted the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo to look like: a world where athletes, staff and visitors could communicate with a chat bubble that would translate in real time

The Fukidashi, as the technology was called, was a translation device that was developed by Panasonic. Its artificial intelligence (AI) team together with Tokyo accelerator 100BANCH teamed up to create a gadget that consists of two screens that translate what users say to them in real-time so that two people with different native languages can communicate directly in their own mother tongues.

Two women speaking with a chat bubble

Yumiko Shinohara, one of the team’s developers was quoted in a CNBC article as saying,

“for Japanese [people], it is very hard to say hi to foreigners. Sometimes Japanese [people] feel very nervous when speaking to foreigners, so we would like to provide a trigger to start a more friendly, natural conversation.”

While the Fukidashi and other translation technologies such as machine translation can be helpful in communicating, human translators were still needed in the Olympic Games showing the limitations of AI once again. 

Facial recognition technology

NEC, a leading technology firm, provided Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2021 with wireless systems, congestion visualization systems, face recognition systems and more. A large-scale facial recognition system was used to identify over 300,000 people at the events, including athletes, volunteers, staff, and the media. 

This was the first time any kind of technology of this kind was used at the Olympic Games, and the implications were exciting, as facial recognition can go a long way for safety and security. The technology was used to identify those who were allowed access to the different Olympic parks that were scattered around the city of Tokyo. 

Artificial intelligence-powered 3-D athlete tracking technology

Finally, tech giants Intel and Alibaba developed artificial intelligence-powered 3-D athlete tracking technology that was used for the first time in the Olympic Games

The technology uses state-of-the-art deep learning that extracts 3-D forms of athletes while they are training or competing. Multiple cameras create a mesh that would allow trainers and coaches to receive real-time biomechanical data. 

The data allows for performance analysis and allows coaches to develop enhanced training techniques. This data will be incredibly important for the progression of world athletics. New training methodologies based on the actual biometrics of world-class athletes will allow for continued improvement in sports.

An athlete on the track before starting a race

Image source

AI is becoming an essential part of the sports world and will continue to have a significant impact in the future. AI is changing the way that sports are played and the way fans enjoy their favourite sports events. 

We are always excited to see arenas where world athletes come together and work together to communicate effectively despite linguistic and cultural differences.