Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Claire Broadley

GET UPDATES FROM Claire Broadley
 

Five Cool New Technologies at the London 2012 Olympics

Posted: 10/07/2012 00:00

Year on year, the Olympic Games prompt technological innovation. NBC were the first broadcasters to use live colour satellite footage for the 1964 Games, and this year, the BBC will be pushing the envelope with 24 HD streams, apps, 3D and social media.

Last year the Olympic committee were left red-faced when the London 2012 countdown clock in Trafalgar Square stopped just a day after being installed. But they're also sure that lightning won't strike twice, having completed hundreds of thousands of hours of testing of new tech over the last two years.

Here are just five new innovations that will be used at the London 2012 Games.

1. New starting blocks

False starts are a hazard for Olympic athletes, and this year, no runner will fluke their way to an advantage on the starting line. Electronic starting blocks are not new in athletics, but the technology has been adapted to give better results this year. Unlike older blocks, the new ones don't detect movement: they detect pressure.

At London 2012, starting blocks will measure the force of the runner's heel to determine whether the sole of their shoe left the block early. Should the force on the block be triggered within 100/1000ths of a second of the pistol, a false start will be triggered. The new blocks are part of a highly complex system of timers, lasers and video recordings.

2. A duel-lens camera

In years gone by, traditional TV cameras have struggled to show viewers exactly how synchronised swimmers are moving during highly complex routines. Filming underwater is tricky, and up until now, it hasn't been possible to broadcast a complete, true picture.

Twinscam is a brand new Japanese camera system which has two lenses. One is positioned above the water line while one films underwater. The underwater camera corrects and matches its image with the 'dry' camera, giving a complete view of the swimmers' bodies. The camera can be manouvered just like a regular camera.

This year's Games will be the first to use NHK's Twinscam to film synchronized swimming events, but similar technology has previously been used in creating 3D movies.

3. Ultra HD broadcasts

This year, the BBC and NHK will place three enormous 400-inch cinema screens in specially selected locations around the UK. They'll show replays of events in Super Hi-Vision, a relatively new technology that offers a picture quality 16 times sharper than HD.

Super Hi-Vision footage is also known as Ultra HD and 8k and has double the frame rate of an average sports broadcast. As such, the footage will be completely exclusive to people lucky enough to get a ticket to a giant screen location. Super Hi-Vision has previously been used to broadcast concerts, but there are only three cameras in the world that can create this phenomenal quality of footage.

This ultra-high definition TV is not expected to be available commercially for another ten years. If you want to catch an Olympic screening, you'll need to visit Pacific Quay in Glasgow, the National Media Museum in Bradford and the Radio Theatre at the BBC's new building in London. The enormous streams will be compressed from 24Gb/s to 350MBps and broadcast over JANET so they can be transmitted to additional locations in Washington, Tokyo and Osaka.

4. Taekwondo sensor socks

At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Sarah Stevenson came within 20 minutes of being eliminated due to a judging error. In Taekwondo, two of the four-person judging panel must be in agreement for points to be scored; on this occasion, a crucial final blow was missed and Stevenson was eliminated. After viewing video footage the decision was overturned, but the experience undoubtedly knocked her off kilter for her final fight - which she lost.

This year, Taekwondo athletes will wear socks and clothing fitted with electronic sensors made by Spanish company Daedo. When contact is made, the sensors will register the blow, giving the judges a valuable back-up system. A companion video relay will help judges to quickly review footage to avoid mistakes in scoring.

Sensors have been tried before with mixed results, so care has been taken to refine the technology to Olympic standard for London 2012.

5. Quantum Timers

Since the 1930s, Omega have been providing timepieces for Olympic track events. Every year brings advancement in accuracy. The last time the Olympics visited British shores, the winner ran through a tape on the finish line - a method which seems archaic merely 64 years later.

For London 2012, Omega will supply a new Quantum Timer which can measure accuracy to a millionth of a second. The starter's pistol will be linked to the timer for an unbelievably accurate measurement of each winning time, and the pistol's sound will be broadcast electronically behind each runner so as to rule out any disputes over the speed of sound - something which has been blamed for skewed results.

Historic Omega timepieces from past Olympic Games are currently on display in the Omega Store, right in the heart of the Olympic Village.

 

Follow Claire Broadley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/redrobotmedia

FOLLOW UK TECH