Tokyo Olympics: Ten Tech Innovations to Watch

(Image credit: IOC)

TOKYO—A rise in Covid-19 cases means that there won’t be fans in the stands at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, but the games will be offering up a host of tech milestones that the organizers and broadcasters hope will keep audiences cheering at home. 

The Olympics have long been known for innovation in sports tech production and TV Tech has been providing extensive coverage of the new technologies that will take center stage at the Games, with dozens of articles that can be accessed here.

We have an inside look at NBC’s tech plans and articles on UHD, immersive sound, HDR,  IP infrastructures and a lot more. 

But this week, the Olympic Broadcasting Services, which will be producing a record amount of content for rights holders, came out with its own list of the top ten tech innovations for the Summer Games. 

Some of the top ten will be easily seen, such as its 4K productions or the new data graphics that will accompany coverage of some sports. 

Others in this top ten will be operating behind the scenes, such as the move to cloud-based workflows, that will provide OBS with the flexibility and technology to deliver a much wider array of formats and experiences for broadcast, streaming and social media. 

And in one case, a top ten innovation will reduce some activities so that Games will have less of an impact on the planet with a reduced carbon footprint. 

Here are the top ten: 

  1. OBS will have a full native UHD HDR production, with 5.1.4 immersive audio (only the coverage of the seven outside Tennis courts will remain in HD). OBS has transitioned its contribution and distribution networks to an all-IP  infrastructure to support the UHD HDR production workflow.
  2. The games will see more content in more formats than ever before. OBS will produce additional Multi Clip Feeds (MCFs), as well as fast-turnaround sports highlights, short-form content and mobile-generated clips. 
  3. As part of its efforts to provide more content in more formats, OBS will also deliver a record 9,500+ hours of content in support of the rights holders’ multi-platform strategies.
  4. New technologies being deployed include: Multi-camera replay systems (several sports); 3D Athlete Tracking (Athletics 100m) in partnership with Intel and Alibaba; True View (Basketball) in partnership with Intel; Biometric data (Archery) in partnership with Panasonic; Live and on-demand immersive 180° stereoscopic and 360° panoramic coverage (several sports); Virtual 3D graphics (Sport Climbing); 2D image tracking (several sports). 
  5. Remote production, both to ensure safety and to provide more coverage, is a big part of the tech game plan. OBS will cover the seven outside tennis courts, as well as certain press conferences, via remote production. The remote production gallery will be set up at the IBC.
  6. Behind the scenes, in an effort to provide more flexible workflows that will allow it to deliver a much wider array of content in more formats to more platforms, OBS has rolled out a set of cloud-based solutions specifically designed for high-demanding broadcast workflows, called OBS Cloud, which allows for greater flexibility and remote production in partnership with Alibaba. 
  7. As part of its embrace of cloud and IP technologies, OBS has transitioned part of its broadcast workflows in the cloud. The OBS video server will be extended to the cloud with increased capacity and worldwide accessibility.
  8. Amid growing concerns about climate change and carbon footprints, OBS has been looking for efficiencies in the design of the IBC, notably introducing mini data centres known as Centralized Technical Areas (CTAs).
  9. OBS has introduced new positions close to the field of play and in back-of house areas at selected venues to help rights holders to engage their audience on social media.
  10. OBS has created an innovative digital fan engagement suite, which allows remote viewers to interact with live events in Tokyo and right holders to connect athletes with their fans.

For an even deeper dive into OBS’s tech plans, take a look at its 62 page description of the innovations being used at this year’s games. 

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.