Creativity and Sport on the Global Stage

Olympic rings. Japanese flag flies nearby.

There are countless Olympic moments burned in our collective consciousness. Abebe Bikila, the barefoot Ethiopian marathoner, taking gold in Rome. Michael Phelps’ record-breaking 28 medals. Yuzuru Hanyu on the ice, Kohei Uchimura on the mat, and Kosuke Kitajima in the pool. And, at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, everything from multilingual talking robot guides to self-driving buses to “time-slicing” mid-motion figure skating for mobile viewers.

Cutting-edge innovation and jaw-dropping technology have become the new mandate for host cities — and Tokyo isn’t taking that responsibility lightly. Creativity has been a central tenet to planning and producing the world’s biggest and most global sporting event to date — one that planners say will rival the last Olympic event in not just sport, but also in the high-tech spectacle.

What to expect at the Games

A long-time leader in technology and innovation, Japan as host to the summer Olympics has an unparalleled opportunity to tout its unwavering prominence on a global stage. With Silicon Valley, China, India, and the rest of the innovation world watching, Japan can unveil the latest and greatest in everything from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to automated technology to the future of transportation — and the world will be watching.

No question, Tokyo’s planning committee will deliver, with an eye on not just wowing the world, but also to introduce unique slices of Japanese culture to the global community. Here’s what to expect, and the technologies driving not just the games but the future of creative technology.

Facial recognition takes centerstage

Moving 300,000 people through venues and events is no small task. By integrating large-scale facial recognition, guests, volunteers, media, and athletes will be able to move through gates and entrances without lines or delays — especially important given how summer temperatures here in Tokyo can soar.

Developed by NEC, facial recognition will take just 0.3 seconds to complete, cutting down on wait times and curbing congestion for a better overall attendee experience. Using biometrics and AI, facial recognition technology can scan multiple faces at once — some systems can process as many as 15 at a time — and match them against known participants.

Welcoming the global community

In 2018, there were driverless buses. In 2020, Tokyo will have driverless taxis — shuttling guests on demand. With a few quick clicks, Olympic guests and athletes can unlock available taxis using their smartphones then simply pay and pop out at their destination. By 2022, these cars will be available for ongoing public use.

Translation and “helping” robots will also help global guests move from destination to destination quickly and easily. Positioned at high-traffic venues, robots will both translate from Japanese to a variety of global languages and also carry bags for guests who need assistance.

Going green, from getting there to gold medaling

Sustainability is a major pillar of how Tokyo is upping the game. Wind and solar energy will power both stadiums and the athlete village, home to thousands of athletes during the games. Also solar: local roads, which will be lined with solar panels. This will generate added electricity.

Even medals have a decidedly green spin. Through a partnership with Japan Environmental Sanitation Center and NTT DoCoMo, this year’s medals will be made from old mobile phones. Phones contain small amounts of gold and silver — bronze medals will be collected separately. Overall, more than 47 tons of recycled electronics will be used to create thousands of winner medals.

Rounding out the high-tech sustainable innovations is the Olympic torch designed by Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka. Thirty percent of the torch is made from waste recovered from temporary housing, supporting victims of the 2011 earthquake. The torch resembles a cherry blossom, with flames bursting from the top.

At Adobe, we applaud the creativity put into developing and executing this upcoming event. It embodies our Creativity for All spirit as it merges creativity and innovative technology with cultural moments and global relevance. Looking at the creative backdrop already taking shape, its clear creativity is front-and-center. From the game-changing innovation to simple, powerful touches, the thought, innovation and desire to elevate and accelerate this experience for all is evident. And we, for one, can’t wait for the Games to begin.