AI Takes Olympic Gold

While the sporting events of the Olympics may be over, the technology that played a key part in making Tokyo 2020 the most technologically advanced Olympic Games yet stays relevant.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were injected with big data and AI to an extent never seen before in an Olympic games, although that may not be clear from the TV coverage. 

Omega’s Magic Eye

It’s been 53 years since the Olympics first used electronic timing technology to keep track of athletes competing in Olympic events. The first of many “photo finishes” for track events came from Omega’s Magic Eye camera, which debuted in 1948 and was quickly adopted in other sports.

Now, for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the technology is stepping up a notch, and Omega is at the helm of most of it.

The official timekeeper for 35 Olympic sports, Omega are using cameras with computer vision capabilities to track the movement of beach volleyball players as well as the ball.

According to Wired magazine, Omega has trained its AI to recognise a wide range of moves and shots, including smashes, spikes, blocks, and passes. This is then combined with data collected from gyroscopic sensors sewn into the players’ clothing to provide commentators with real-time information on the exact movement of the players and the ball.

Long gone are the days of using stopwatches to time races. In reality, we’ve progressed by a factor of a thousand since then.

Omega uses a Quantum Timer at these events, an atomic clock that uses laser-cooled single ions contained in an electromagnetic ion trap. (Okay, it’s not AI, but it’s still pretty cool.)

The Robot Olympics might be a way off yet, but technology has quickly become a vital part of Olympic sports, even for new events like skateboarding.

Athlete Health Tracking

Monitoring athletes is important because, as competition becomes more tough, targeted practise becomes more important. Coaches and athletes employed AI-powered tools to deliver information depending on their performance and location on the field, providing them a competitive advantage.

Data AI and data analysis play a significant role in athlete development. Athletes can use AI and data analysis to identify not only their own performance, but also the performance of their opponents.

Artificial technology is being used in sports such as softball, basketball, and field hockey to track the number of times the ball has been hit, bounced, or even kicked. It also aids in the prediction of when to shoot, hit or pass a ball.

AI-driven fitness apps can adapt to the challenges an athlete puts forward to be the best in the world.

Machine learning

Machine learning technologies are being used at international sporting events, ranging from athlete data tracking to real-time feedback from coaches that can tell athletes when to train and when to rest, as well as predicting sports injuries with algorithms.

Alibaba Group and Intel teamed to run a 3D athlete-tracking system that allows coaches to probe into every minute movement of their Olympic athletes, and machine learning algorithms analyse athlete data collected from numerous platforms like Alibaba Group and Intel.

The system uses algorithms to understand the biomechanics of athletes’ movements captured by cameras and to estimate the position of key body joints. Computer vision, as a branch of artificial intelligence, allows machines to perform image processing tasks in order to mimic human vision.

Coaches are relying on machine learning to see personalised data for each athlete based on variables such as fitness levels and overall specific capabilities. This process elevates it above and beyond simply tracking data.

Because no two athletes are the same, machine learning is an important component that learns about each athlete and flags any significant, high-risk changes in the athlete’s performance.

Teams working with machine learning models are optimizing formations, giving the best chance of winning medals at key competitions.


Then there are the robots who are competing in the Olympics. Viewers would have seen Toyota’s Field Support Robots (FSR) rolling across the turf to retrieve items such as javelins at the track and field events. There is also the T-HR3 “humanoid robot,” also developed by Toyota, which will mirror the movements of their human owners from afar, as a sort of “avatar robot.”

Finally, who could forget CUE, the basketball-playing robot who never fails to make a free throw? Perhaps CUE will be ready to coach the humans after the US men’s basketball team missed its final nine shots in a devastating loss to France in their first game.