How new technology has transformed the Olympics

Tech It Up!

View photo

.

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius competes at the 2012 Summer Olympics. AP Photo

The events may be familiar, but this year's Olympic Games have been transformed by cutting-edge technology.


Media organizations are employing new cameras to capture every moment. Judges are using technology as a safety net for close calls. But the biggest changes revolve around how spectators are experiencing the games and the changes in rules that dictate what high-tech equipment can and can’t be used—and in the case of a double-amputee runner, who can and can’t compete—in the events.

With this in mind, what fancy tech toys can we spot among fans, media and athletes?


Spectators

Smartphones and tablets
It's no surprise that fans have been obsessed with their smartphones and tablets. Those in the stands have been inseparable from their mobile devices—so much so that the International Olympic Committee has asked them to "take it easy" for the sake of bandwidth. And if spectators think they can bypass this by broadcasting their own wireless networks, the IOC's on to them. An image circulating on Reddit shows the "Olympics Wi-Fi police" outfitted with an antenna, scanning for rogue networks to shut down.

Streaming apps (and nuisances)
People watching at home are likewise glued to their mobile devices. While many are riled up over NBC's tape-delayed prime-time coverage, cable subscribers can watch the events live on their smartphones and tablets. (According to NBC’s official stats, 45 percent of streams are coming from mobile devices. In the first five days alone, NBC delivered more than 5.3 million hours of live video, surpassing the total number of hours streamed during the entire Beijing Games.) The NBC Olympics Live Extra app is streaming all sporting and medal events, totaling more than 3,500 hours of programming. (In the U.K., the BBC's Olympics app is providing up to 24 live video streams as well.) But NBC’s app has had its share of issues. Many viewers are complaining about the plethora of ads, which can freeze the stream, and low video quality. And of course, they've taken to Twitter to vent. A sampling of their frustrations with NBC:

@egculbertson: Am loathing the @NBCOlympics app right now. Bad quality, ads mid-race and poor refresh to get into the swimming finals. #nbcfail

@toddplunk: Amazing how the @NBCOlympics LIVE app never has any trouble showing you ads, but fails so often to stream the actual games. #priorities

@dhannaTmC: I've noticed something with the @nbcolympics live app. There is like 5x more ads when you go to a event featuring USA Athletes #really

A running social media experiment
During the men’s 100-meter final, were you cheering for Usain Bolt or the Tweethletes bird? Tweethletes was a social media experiment that raced the Twittersphere against the actual competitors. “The athletes used their feet, we used our tweets,” according to the website.  Powered by tweets with the #100mfinal hashtag, the Tweethletes mascot moved ahead 2.5 centimeters, the length of a typical tweet, with each new update. The website broadcast the virtual race as it happened, and it now shows a rerun of the event. In the end, Tweethletes was able to advance 11 meters (that’s 469 tweets) by the time Usain Bolt reached the finish line in 9.63 seconds, setting an Olympic record. Good effort Tweethletes, but Bolt can’t be beat .

Media

Robotic camera
Capturing every detail of the games requires futuristic gear as well. Getty Images, the official photo agency of the IOC, is employing a robotic camera with swiveling heads to bring sweeping 360-degree aerial views from up high. Since this isn’t automated, it is controlled by a photographer with a joystick controller on the ground. (Strict restrictions prohibit photographers from certain places, such as the rafters.) While TV cameras have been mounted similarly in the past, this is the first time for still cameras.

Longest cable-camera system
You've never seen rowing like this before.  A new three-cable camera system  is capturing every detail of rowing and canoeing. The camera uses a system strung between two 92-meter-tall towers that are 2,500 meters apart. As the camera follows the race, it lowers in height, reaching the lowest point halfway through, where it is suspended 8 meters above the competitors, able to zero in on every emotion. When the camera reaches the end, it will return to the start line at 70 kilometers per hour to capture the next race.

Athletes

This time around in London, the emphasis is less on controversial high-tech swim attire—which all the swimmers wore in Beijing—thanks to a crackdown on what competitors can don in the Olympic pool. But that doesn't mean we're not seeing new tech-wear and gadgets on the field.

Streamlined threads
U.S. sprinters are sporting a specially designed TurboSpeed suit designed by Nike. The high-tech suits can reportedly help runners shave 0.23 seconds off a 100-meter sprint. These outfits endured hundreds of hours in a wind tunnel over a 12-year period. Made of an 82 percent recycled polyester fabric, the design incorporates golf ball-like dimples, which can reduce aerodynamic drag. Adidas has also been hard at work to create new athletic wear, specifically hot pants, which are used by Great Britain’s cyclists. Adipower warms the wearer’s muscles to yield better performance. Adidas debuted the pants after four years of development by the sportswear company, British Cycling and Loughborough University. In taekwondo, new rules require that competitors be clad with sensor pads that register hits. The new uniforms by Daedo will increase judging accuracy and serve as a backup to prevent human scoring errors.

Carbon-fiber prosthetics
This is the first Olympics that featured a double-amputee sprinter. Competing in the individual 400-meter event and South Africa’s 4x400-meter relay squad, Oscar Pistorius is a four-time Paralympic gold medalist. Nicknamed the Blade Runner, he sported his iconic carbon-fiber blade prosthetics, which were a source of controversy at the last Olympics. The International Association of Athletics Federations had ruled that he would be ineligible for Olympic competition, but that was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. While he was eligible to compete in the Beijing Olympics, he didn't qualify, instead taking home three golds in the Paralympic Games in 2008.

Reimagined sports gear
In Olympics 2.0, the athletes aren't just wearing tech. The equipment they're using has also been improved. There are countless examples of tech advances in sporting gear, but we wanted to highlight some of the more noteworthy.  Archery, a sport that’s captured many eyeballs in London, is beginning to resemble the “Hunger Games” trilogy that catapulted the event to fame. The focus is on the recurve bow, a major deviation from the more mainstream compound bow. Instead of a system of pulleys and strings, Olympians use a bow with two arms designed to store more energy. The synthetic foam core of recurves is adapted from Navy submarines to maintain the shape of the bow's arms.

Over in the badminton world, a sport surprisingly marred by controversy in these games, the majority of players are swinging racquets by Yonex, which altered the shape of the racquet head from a long oval to one that’s squarish, increasing the hitting surface space. These rackets come in carbon, graphite and titanium frames for better speed and power.

The air pistol events have also seen an equipment face lift. Instead of using pellets, the event has switched over to lasers. Calibrated to recoil and sound like a traditional pistol, the laser guns are safer and more cost-effective, allowing the event to be held outdoors and in other public venues. The new technology also allows for electronic scoring, since judges no longer need to look at physical marks on a target.

What can we expect in the coming 2016 Olympics? Surely, new advances in sportswear, equipment, broadcasting, communication and of course rules to dictate how they’re used. But right now, the biggest tech concerns for 2016’s host city, Rio de Janeiro, have to do with infrastructure: security, highways and transit systems.

Check Out More Olympics Coverage From Yahoo!:

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Maine governor offers John Lewis an erroneous history lesson

      AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Republican Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday offered an erroneous history lesson about racial segregation to a black Georgia congressman who risked his life to fight for civil rights, and he called on the NAACP to apologize to white people.

      Associated Press
    • Massive Alligator Strolls Casually Past Florida Tourists

      Video shows the gator without a care in the world.

      Inside Edition
    • Grandfather Stops Kidnapping In 'Tug of War' With Woman in Park Over 3-Year-Old: Cops

      Cops say Lindsay Frasher wrapped her arms around the girl, but her grandfather refused to let go.

      Inside Edition
    • Green fouls LeBron, appears to mock him for flopping

      OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Draymond Green and LeBron James went at it again in the first half of the Cavaliers' visit to Golden State on Monday.

      Associated Press
    • Photos of the day — January 17, 2017 (23 photos)

      Impoverished Indian children watch a performance as part of advocacy against child labor in Allahabad, India; women loyal to the Houthi movement parade to show support to the movement in Sanaa, Yemen; and dogs are blessed by a priest outside San Anton Church in the neighborhood of Churriana in Malaga on the day of Saint Anthony, Spain’s patron saint of animals. These are just a few of the photos of the day for January 17, 2017. See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr .

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • First Look At Joker’s Cut-Up Face Revealed In New ‘Gotham’ Season 3 Promo

      Check out the terrifying new look of Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan), better known as the Joker, in “Gotham” Season 3.

      International Business Times
    • Grieving Husband Demands Harsher Sentence for 'Melrose' Star Who Killed His Wife: 'Justice Has Not Been Done'

      Actress Amy Locane-Bovenizer will not return to prison for the fatal drunken driving crash that killed Helene Seeman.

      Inside Edition
    • Flying cars are real, and Airbus is making them this year

      If there's one thing that the year 2000 and beyond really let us down on it's the unfulfilled promise of flying cars. Sure, there are airplanes that can be driven on city streets, but they're not exactly commonplace, and definitely not as impressive as what 80s sci-fi movies had led us to believe. Now Airbus, one of the biggest aviation brands on the planet, is promising to do its part to clear up traffic congestion with autonomous flying taxis, and it plans on having a working prototype flying high by the end of this year. As Reuters reports , Airbus CEO Tom Enders announced the company's plans to continue development within its Urban Air Mobility division of a single-person autonomous flying vehicle at a recent tech conference in Germany. "We are in an experimentation phase, we take this development very seriously," Enders said. "One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground." Enders also cited the potential for flying cars to provide some much needed relief for city infrastructure like roads and bridges — after all, flying cars don't stress the pavement. What's more, Rodin Lyasoff, the CEO of A^3, Airbus's advanced projects group, suggests that flying cars are actually much closer to reality than we think. “Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there,” he says on the company's website. But Lyasoff also notes that one of the biggest hurdles currently is the technology that will allow the vehicles to avoid collisions when flying autonomously, though he says solving that issue is already a top priority. The company's current plans of having a single-passenger craft in the air within the next 12 months are ambitious, but seemingly within the realm of possibility, so grab your air sickness bag and strap in because the future is just around the corner.

      BGR News
    • Authorities: Trooper was shot by driver he sought to help

      PHOENIX (AP) — The man who shot and severely beat an Arizona state trooper last week was a former member of the Mexican federal police who was in the country illegally, authorities said.

      Associated Press
    • Trump accuses civil rights leader Lewis of lying about inauguration

      By Doina Chiacu WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump extended his war of words with African-American civil rights leader John Lewis on Tuesday, accusing the Democratic congressman of lying when he said Trump's inauguration would be the first that he would miss. "John Lewis said about my inauguration, 'It will be the first one that I've missed.' WRONG (or lie)! He boycotted Bush 43 also because he 'thought it would be hypocritical to attend Bush's swearing-in....he doesn't believe Bush is the true elected president.' Sound familiar!" Trump said in a pair of posts on Twitter.

      Reuters
    • Vice President Joe Biden (51 photos)

      On Jan. 20, Joe Biden officially hands over the vice president's office, a capstone on a career that has spanned decades in electoral politics. Among other things, his tenure in the White House has seen him strike a clear friendship with President Obama, who picked the then-Delaware senator as running mate after securing the 2008 Democratic nomination. Here's a look back at the past eight years of Vice President Biden. ( Colin Campbell /Yahoo News) See more of our inauguration coverage here . _____ See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr.  

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • Inside Edition
    • Chiefs' Andy Reid believes holding should have been no-call

      KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs coach Andy Reid doesn't believe the holding penalty on left tackle Eric Fisher that cost Kansas City a tying 2-point conversion against Pittsburgh on Sunday night should have been called.

      Associated Press
    • Pakistani mother sentenced to death for daughter's 'honour killing'

      A mother who murdered her own daughter and set her alight for marrying the man of her choice has been sentenced to death, officials said Tuesday, in a case that had revolted many in Pakistan. Zeenat Bibi, aged 16, was doused with kerosene and set alight in June last year in Pakistan's teeming cultural capital Lahore, a little over a week after she wed 20-year-old motorcycle mechanic Hasan Khan against her family's wishes. A judge in an anti-terror court in Lahore sentenced her mother Perveen Bibi to death on murder and terrorism charges, prosecutor Mian Mohammad Tufail told AFP.

      AFP
    • Inside Edition
    • BMW smartens up the 4 Series in time for Geneva

      Rather than a total reimagining, BMW has given its mid-sized executive coupé a subtle facelift to ensure it still stands out alongside the new Audi A5 and current Mercedes C-Class at this year's Geneva International Motor Show, which opens its doors on March 9. BMW says that the adjustments also make the steering more communicative -- responding to one of the few criticisms of the 4 Series in its current form. As for propulsion, all engines both gasoline and diesel on offer now use BMW's TwinPower turbo technology for upping power without upping fuel consumption and XDrive intelligent all-wheel drive is now standard or an option on 12 different models.

      AFP Relax News
    • Apple’s TV plans are finally starting to take shape

      Apple finally seems to be warming up to the the fact that it needs original programming if it ever hopes to compete in the TV space. To be sure, there are no shortage of movies and TV shows available for purchase and rental via iTunes, but Netflix has demonstrated that a stable of high-quality and exclusive content is what really moves the needle in today's ever-evolving entertainment age. Late last week, word surfaced that Apple was finally preparing to dive into the realm of original content head first. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal , Apple has been busy talking with producers about developing episodic shows similar in style to hit shows like HBO's Westworld and Netflix's Stranger Things . This is a promising development given that shows like  Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps  aren't exactly thrilling programs capable of attracting a wide audience in the same way that a show like House of Cards can pull in viewers. In the wake of that report, Apple Music chief and longtime music industry veteran Jimmy Iovine explained Apple's goals in the media space while appearing at a Television Critics Association event this past weekend. Iovine's remarks were originally relayed by The Hollywood Reporter . "At Apple Music, what we're trying to create is an entire cultural, pop cultural experience, and that happens to include audio and video," Iovine said. "If South Park walks into my office, I am not going to say you're not musicians, you know? We're going to do whatever hits popular culture smack on the nose. We're going to try." Reports indicate that Apple's first stab at compelling original programming may hit Apple Music before the end of the year. As a final point, it's worth noting that Apple's deep pockets could certainly help it roll out any number of hit shows. As we've explained previously, Apple would only need $538 million in order to cumulatively produce one season of each of the following shows: Game of Thrones Breaking Bad House of Cards Orange is the new Black Arrested Development Mad Men Marco Polo The Wire The Big Bang Theory Sons of Anarchy All in all, it's reassuring to see that Apple finally seems to have a semblance of a strategy in a space that it's ignored for far too long.

      BGR News
    • A '67 Shelby Mustang GT500 and the Joy of Aimlessness

      For the first time in years, I went for a drive without having to think about work. I had to retire to realize what I'd been missing.

      Car and Driver
    • Donald Trump praises wrong Ivanka in Twitter shout-out

      LONDON (AP) — U.S. President-elect Donald Trump wanted to praise his daughter on Twitter — instead he accidentally sent his message to another Ivanka.

      Associated Press