Olympic Games 2020: Futuristic tech changes to get excited about

8 Game-changing innovations tipped to be part of Olympic proceedings

The London 2012 Olympic Games has barely opened its doors, yet there are some who are already looking at how the major sporting event could look in the future...

Approximately 4 billion will be watching the London 2012 Olympic Games around the world, but by 2020 that number could rise to 5 billion people which would account for 66% of the world population. That's already an astounding figure, but according to international IT services company and Worldwide Information Technology Atos, things are only going to get bigger and technology will play a major part in spreading the Olympic Games love.

In the latest Atos report examining how technology will shape the way sport is experienced from the spectator at home to the world class athletes we go to watch, we've picked out eight futuristic visions to get excited about.

1. Create your own post-match analysis

The likes of Facebook and Twitter already allows people to instantly make their thoughts known about a match or game as in a public domain as soon it has ended and even target frustrations or criticisms directly at athletes who have chosen to open themselves to instant feedback on social networks. Jan Krans, a social media expert for Atos believes that social networks in the future with the help of cloud technology will be even more integrated into major sporting events, particularly after the game:

“After an event, fans will be able to re-live some of the moments; you can’t rewind a live sports event, so you mark some of the events for later analysis or playback. Clubs will create a community where fans discuss specific moments in the game. Krans adds, “As a fan, you can make your own summary of the game and share it with other fans and friends. Spectators and fans will be able to get far more involved, and the experience will run before, during and after the event.”

2. More advanced augmented reality

Augmented reality has made great progress in recent years particularly on smartphones while Google's Project Glasses remain an exciting prospect for the near future, but the technology still has some way to go before it becomes an essential part of our day-to-day lives. Celestino Güemes, a Big Data expert for Atos expects the process of overlaying data on real-life objects to have a massive impact at sporting events in 2020:

"Imagine watching Usain Bolt in the 100 Metres, but instead of his shirt number you see a speedometer showing how fast he’s running. This level of in-flight data visualization is already within our capabilities. Watch the Olympic Swimming and the national flags you see appear on screen in the lane as each swimmer touches is the result of data being captured, analyzed and visualized within 0.3 seconds of each touch.

Güemes adds, “Fans will be able to play with the data, selecting different views as they desire, and even using it to create their own visual representations, rather as YouTube users create their own musical montages now.”

3. Big Data for athletes

Big Data which essentially involves processing high volumes of data to discover patterns and themes of behaviour has already filtered into major sports in the US as illustrated most recently by the film Moneyball. Big Data expert Celestino Güemes sees Big Data playing a key role in the way athletes prepare for events in the future:

“In training, athletes will be able to gather their own performance data, upload it to a biometrically secured space in the cloud, and perform their own analysis. This will give coaches far greater flexibility, even allowing them to train their athletes remotely. The data gathered can be used in two ways: to spot patterns and identify signs of improvement, weakness or even potential injury; and real time data – providing in-flight analysis so the coach can adjust the training as it happens in order to meet precisely calculated targets.”

4. Intelligent ticketing

The days of getting to the airport or heading to a gig and leaving your ticket behind are scenarios now easily solved by electronic tickets on smartphones or email, but what if the ticket you purchased for an event allowed you to buy food and have it delivered to your seat as well as securing your entry? Jordi Cuatero, Chief Technology Officer at Major Events, believes tickets are only going to get smarter:

“By issuing spectators with an electronic ticket sent directly to their personal device they’ll be able to consume all the services on offer from the stadium automatically. Intelligent ticketing will mean far greater differentiation in the price categories on offer, with dozens of levels between ‘general entry’ and ‘VIP’ each offering consumers different access rights and benefits.”

Cuatero also suggests the intelligent tickets could offer the opportunity to gain alternative views of the event and receive real-time data about everything you are witnessing, all of which you will be able to share through social networks.

5. Getting to the Games

London residents are already braced for commuting havoc when an estimated 800,000 visitors are expected to use trains, buses and other modes of public transport to get to Olympic events. The ‘Emoto project’ which measure emotional response to the Games worldwide via tweets and themes will help the Olympic committee and others involved in the organisation of the Games to gauge which elements were well received, and those that weren't. By the 2020 Games, this could be taken further as Eric Baczuk of MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory explains:

“By the 2020 Games, this kind of intelligence on what people are doing and feeling may help to deliver better transport provision, energy use, resource allocation and infrastructure planning. It could also help organizers and stakeholders react to events – managing the experience in the best way possible at a time when the city is subject to new rhythms and unpredictable disruptions.”

6. Take on your sporting heroes

So you think you can put in a quicker 100m time than Usain Bolt? Maybe you can throw a javelin further than Jessica Ennis? New Media specialist Paul Moore reckons you’ll soon be able to take on the world’s greatest via the realms of virtual reality and the cloud to merge live action with gaming and bring people closer to their idols in a very unique way:

“You could take over a particular player in the middle of a football game and replay the situation they faced. You could take over the Formula One car and compete against the other drivers, or retake a free kick your team missed." Moore believes that the foundations of the technology needed to make this possible are there but there is still a long way to go adding, "Video games create a simulated animation model of virtual sport. Now we're working on merging those two together seamlessly."

7. Multiview 3D

Stereoscopic 3D has already been ushered into cinemas and homes over the last few years, but new media specialist Paul Moore feels that multiview 3D which works in a similar fashion to the concept behind 3D panoramic photographs could be a revolutionary step for spectators in 2020:

“It’s (multiview 3D) not great quality in real time yet, but it will be by 2020. By then you could conceivably watch a match from any angle you want.” When multiview 3D is up to scratch Moore believes that we will then witness what he refers to as a 'virtual stadium world', “You watch the match in a virtual stadium, where you can ‘sit’ anywhere and interact with other spectators, who may be completely virtual but may also be there in person.” Moore adds, “There would be real camera and microphone inputs (via smart phones or tablets) from real spectators, used to augment realism of the virtual world. The actual match is in multiview 3D and you can watch from anywhere, even on the field.”

8. Olympic Games around the world

When UEFA President Michel Platini recently entertained the idea of one day spreading the European Championships across several countries, it caused something of commotion in the footballing world, but in the eyes of Atos ubiquity specialist Guy Lidbetter, it’s not such a crazy idea to have events where athletes are not physically in the same place:

“Thanks to advances in cloud technology, for example, will there really be a need for a single city to host a major event like the Olympic Games – building major infrastructure, broadcasting compounds and operations centres? Lidbetter adds, “Will events even need to be hosted by just one city? Today, there are very few cities that have the capacity and financial means to be able to host an Olympic and Paralympic Games, with their demands on infrastructure, funding, facilities and manpower. So why not use the technology available and open it up to a number of cities, bringing the event to many more people locally but more remotely accessible than ever before?”

You can read the full Atos report which includes contributions by London 2012 Chairman Sebastian Coe and award winning author Simon Kuper at atos.net/london2012

Image Credit: London 2012