Atos’ Vision & technology in sport

In 2012, the London Olympic Games was the favorite, most liked and trended sporting event in recent history. Move ahead two years and the social media bar is still held up by the London 2012 Closing Ceremony, which generated an astonishing 2000 tweets per second at peak.

This week, the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games looks set to break records for social media interaction, thanks in part to the young athletes and fans’ natural affinity to social media and the explosion of social networking on the likes of Weibo, WeChat and QQ with social interaction likely to reach unparalleled heights fueled by the growth of connectivity in China, and millions of enthusiastic posters with mobile devices.

During the London 2012 Games, Atos unveiled a thought-provoking and in some ways controversial vision for the future of the sport in 2020 with the launch of the Digital Edition of the ascent thought leadership program illustrating their thoughts on how technology could radically transform the experience of athletes, TV and online viewers at home, and fans in the stadium by 2020.

A controversial yet fascinating hypothesis they suggested was was a suggestion that by 2020 competitions could could stages where athletes compete in the same race but are not located on the same track, the same pitch or even in the same country. Athletes could perform or run in their own city, but maybe appear together as holograms in the same race, when viewed  by the TV audience, or even by the stadium audience.

I started thinking what if we went a step further – so if your own nation’s favourite 100m runner didn’t make the qualifying time, could you perhaps click the TV remote red-button and overlay your national champion on your version of the TV broadcast, as she runs alone in a home stadium? If enough of a nation’s viewing audience selected this option, (think a little like Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One and their weather selection) could the national TV broadcast include this option, unless of course you opted out. Crowd-sourced opinion for better – or at least alternative content. If you had a track in your own track in the back-yard could you overlay yourself on a recording to watch later?

Possible perhaps – but feasible? What about wind conditions at the different tracks? Recorded times would need to be corrected surely, as they are now for record validation. And what of athletes at different altitudes? London versus Mexico City? And what of the suggestion that athletes could change tactics in-event utilising smart clothing that could imbue tactital decisions via sensors on the skin or in the shoe, using real-time information available to them and their trainer; their trainer who may be busy track-side 3D printing a different sole for training shoes as more suitable this individual track’s surface.

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It’s an intriguing topic to browse around, and not just from the athletes perspective, with other predictions that viewers at home will have control over the view they get of the event as they watch the action through the eyes of their chosen athlete, perhaps switching mid-race, and the stadium crowd can get a front view from every seat with a second screen that can switch view to head-on view regardless of where in the stadium you are.

We’ve built an entire language around the emotions of the game.

Only yesterday Billie Whitehouse from Wearable Experiments appeared on Bloomberg to discuss their new wearable clothing, The Alert Shirt created for Fox where the viewer can wear a shirt that transfers the experience from a player on a pitch to the stadium or TV viewer.

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Asked why would anyone want something like this, Billie answered ubiquitous communication. To go further I think the answer to the why question, is immersion:

[blockquote size=”third” align=”right” byline=”Billie Whitehouse, Wearable Experiments”]I think there’s a demand for a fourth-dimension of entertainment[/blockquote]

The introduction of a haptic experience to viewers is one thing, and one I’d like to try, one I think I’d like, but the potential for use by sports professionals is considerable. Junior teams watching pros  their coach, replaying games and regularising emotions and physical responses as scenarios are replayed offer a level of improvement unimaginable ten years ago. And what if we took these sports fan and player learnings to rehabilitation techniques, improving rehabilitation techniques and speeding time to recovery?

The Atos document is fascinating and worth a read with its expanded, disruptive thinking. When Pierre de Coubertin adopted Citius – Altius – Fortius though, he never imagined we’d be thinking : Faster (processor) – Higher (frequency) – Stronger (graphene). Things change.

  1. A vision for sport and technology : Atos report : PDF
  2. Big Data Analytics drives athletic advantage : Datameer
  3. 8 Ways Big Data & Analytics will change sport : CIO.com
  4. Wind-assistance in Track & Field : Wikipedia
  5. Gait analysis using wearable sensors : Weijun Tao, Tao Liu, Rencheng Zheng, Hutian Feng PDF
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