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Technology at the 2018 Winter Olympics

As Godfrey Reggio put it, ‘It’s not that we use technology. We live technology.’ The advancement of technology generally evokes a range of emotions in people from all walks of life. It is simultaneously seen as a social evil capable of slowly diminishing humanity as well as a medium that brings the world closer together to solve prevalent challenges.

At the end of the day, we live in a technology-driven world, whether we like it or not. The implications of this were especially felt in the aftermath of the recently held Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang in South Korea. Numerous remarkable innovations were incorporated from cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and 5G communications, as well as accident-prevention designs to ensure the safety of participants.

These included:
i) MIPS helmets to protect downhill skiers from cranial damage in case of a high-speed crash. These multi-directional impact protection helmets featured a ball-and-socket style slip plane which reduced rotational angular motion during impact. The helmet shell used a hammerhead design to reduce the force of impact.

The Samsung smart suit was worn by speed skaters with a smartphone software that allowed coaches to better analyze their posture. These were then relayed as signals to a band on the skater’s wrist so that the skater could change that attribute to traverse more efficiently. This was a training suit and was not to be used during the races.

ii) Airbags for MotoGP riders which were to be worn as vests- These comprised seven sensors that auto-detected whether the rider was losing control or about to crash. The airbag could then inflate to Hulk-like proportions, thus cushioning the rider from all sides and greatly minimizes the risk of injury.

Apart from safety issues, talking robot guides helped direct people to the venue. Capable of speaking English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese- these technological marvels ensured there were no language barriers. As far as the tedious commute between the dozen venues was concerned, Hyundai’s self-driving buses solved the problem quite easily.

South Korea flaunted its technological and economic prowess by showcasing the world’s first large-scale development of 5G wireless connectivity, which is around 100 times faster than its predecessor, 4G LTE. Besides 5G-connectivity, self-driving buses, drones patrolling stadiums, and robots offering visitors directions and serving refreshments were also featured at the event.

Around 85 Korean robots were deployed as volunteers to help with the event. An AI Robot had been designed at the Centre to respond to visitors’ questions. Named “Future Robot”, or FURO, it can translate Korean into about 29 languages and vice versa. It interacts with users using an AI-based application, “Genie Talk”, which works by interacting with the companion app that can be easily downloaded on smartphones.

Moments before the XXIII Winter Games ended amid a furious barrage of K-pop and firecrackers, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, remarked, “We have seen here how sport can make the world a better place-these are the Games of new horizons.” According to Intel, demonstrations in Pyeongchang are “a backbone” for what will be on show at the Tokyo Games in 2020. These envision the Olympic Village becoming a “smart city,” where cars can send real-time data to traffic lights, and display boards can transmit information that people are looking up on their phones.

In its transition from being an impoverished country in the 1950-60s to becoming a giant in the technology sector, South Korea has set an example for the world. By organizing one of the most advanced Olympics games yet, they have laid the stepping stones to make games more interactive and certainly more comfortable for both participants and spectators.

By: Poorvi Goyal, Chaksh Katyal, Atharv Mudur, Megha Shashidhar, Kaustubh Gautam.