Recording Rio: New Olympics Technology Showcase

By Mackenzie Moffitt

We all know the music. When we hear it for the first time every two years, a shiver of excitement runs down our spines. The Olympics are a spectacle enjoyed by nearly everyone around the globe. While the upcoming Olympics in Rio, opening on August 6th, have not been without controversy and concern, most of the world is looking forward to tuning in their televisions to cheer on their country’s top athletes in hopes of bringing home the gold.

Of all of the discussions regarding the 2016 summer games, one that has been quieter than others is the conversation about new technology being used to bring an even more immersive experience to those of us watching at home.

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One of the most highly anticipated technological advances of this year’s Olympics in Rio is the use of Virtual Reality. To get the skinny on what VR is all about and how it works, read our blog post from a few weeks ago about it. The Olympic Broadcasting System (OBS), NBC and Samsung are partnering to bring the VR experience into the hands of Samsung users.

By logging into the NBC app on a compatible Samsung phone, users will be able to be immersed in a 360-degree environment to view the opening and closing ceremonies, along with many of the sporting events. The catch? You have to own a Samsung VR headset in order to utilize this feature. Regardless, this is an unprecedented endeavor and is sure to change the way that we think about watching sports.

For an example of what this will look like, check out the video below. Earlier this year, Samsung and NBC paired up to show the Kentucky Derby in VR. Youtube user Joshua Writer uploaded an example of what this looked like through his VR headset.

Among the technologies to be showcased include lap counters for distance swimmers. These lap counters come in the form of screens submerged beneath each swimmer’s lane that help them keep track of where they are in their race. This will allow the athletes to not only know what they’ve done and what’s left, but it will also help them maintain their pacing.

Other water sports to feature new technology will be rowing and canoe sprinting. These two events will feature GPS capabilities on each boat that will allow fans at the games to see real time, not only where the boats are, but also their speed and exact direction. This technology will be transmitted to big screens near the fans so that they can track the boats, even when they’re out of sight.

Archery will also feature a new, pinpoint accurate, electronic scoring system that will take any and all guesswork out of scoring shooting events. The targets have sensors that immediately transmit the score to a screen, therefore relinquishing the need for judges to individually measure and score each shot. Similar technology has been used in other sharp shooting sports but has now been improved to be precise down to the millimeter.

New camera dollies will follow weightlifters, allowing judges and spectators to see the athletes every movement.

All of these new tech features are only adding to the experience that is the Olympic games. As we all know, technology is created at an astounding pace and the OBS is at the forefront of including this to further enhance that experience. Maybe by the time the 2018 winter games in PyeongChang roll around, we will be able to ride along inside of a virtual bobsleigh as it hurdles down the hill.

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