The world of sports and athletics have greatly benefitted in the technological advancements that the last century has presented. Even in the last four years, sports technology has improved hugely since the London 2012 Olympics. Here’s a list of some of the new technological innovations to look out for at the Rio Olympic Games.
3D Printing and Body Scanning:
Engineers have been working hard to try and improve the material they use to create the athletic gear donned by many at the Olympic games, with the aim of reducing friction and weight. Garments such a Speedo’s LZR suit for example, which was co-designed by NASA engineers, works so well that it has been deemed as an unfair advantage.
Furthermore, with the introduction of 3D printing, it is now possible to produce perfect body scans of individuals, helping to ensure that the right materials and fit are used for each person and their sport. In 2012 for example, many swimmer were seen wearing the Speedo’s “FatSkin” caps that were moulded to their head shapes; helping them to glide through the water more effortlessly. In addition, sportswear giant Nike were one of the early pioneers in 3D printed athletic gear, and have recently stepped their game up even more with tiny 3D printed silicon protrusions that will be attached to their runners’ track suits. These silicon attachments are able to redirect airflow around the runner, making them faster. When a tenth of a second is the difference between gold and silver, these tiny improvements could have major advantages.
More Precise Motion Tracking Wearables:
Although they have been around since London 2012, wearable fitness and motion trackers have vastly improved in recent years, turning simple trackers into a now integral part of training for many Olympians. Trackers are often used by endurance athletes such as runners and swimmers, in order to monitor and measure anaerobic output, nutritional needs and other biometric stats.
However, an increasing number of athletes are using the technology to measure precision over exertion. The Team USA divers for example are using waterproof wearable’s in order to help measure movements such as jump height, angles and speeds of somersaults and body alignment. Similarly, former boxer Tommy Duquette has created Hykso, a small sensor that fits inside of a boxing glove that is helping Team USA boxers track and improve punch speed, accuracy, and more.
Performance-enhancing Drug Tests:
In light of the recent scandal involving Russia, whereby they were discovered to be undergoing a state-sponsored doping program, which almost cost the country the chance to compete in the games altogether, tech companies have stepped up to help officials keep the upper hand over cheating and finding and stopping illegal substance use. As a result, this year’s Olympic Games look set to be one of the cleanest on record. One such new process tests samples for unknown samples like before, but also includes a comparison test to other samples, in order to check everything looks normal. This highlights anything abnormal that could mean a new unknown substance or method could be in use that was would have previously gone un-noted. Part of this strategy includes using big data methods to test as many samples as possible, and then compare those to athletic performance to look for trends and what might look abnormal in the data set.
Another anti-doping enhancement new to these games is performance-enhancing gene therapy testing. This tests if athletes have been given synthetic DNA that works to give the athlete a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) that increases red blood cells and thus athletic performance. New technology that makes this test realistic on a larger scale is underway to test athletes from these games, as well as from 2012 and 2008.
What to lookout for before Tokyo 2020:
As a country known to be a leader in technological innovation, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are already preparing for new major technological implementations. Tokyo officials have discussed plans for self-driving taxi’s, facial recognition stadium entry and more. Much more advanced equipment is already in development for the athletes that will debut in the 2020 games.
Of course, there will be new tech advancements that we won’t have seen coming, as they aren’t yet invented, but we can watch trends to see what is being focused on now. One of those trends is the use of big data, and how athletes are getting more data than ever from their own body and from their competition to improve training. With an increase in wearable’s, better tracking software, and more data-focused companies partnering with teams and athletes, expect big data to play a much larger role in the most competitive team leading up to Tokyo 2020.