As the Olympics have unfolded in Tokyo over the past few weeks, people all over the world have been tuning in to watch their favorite athletes compete. Though the delayed Olympic games have been a bit different with COVID-19 rules in place, seeing athletes perform on the global stage has been a breath of fresh air for many amidst coronavirus chaos. Also a bit different from past olympics, the use of technology by both the International Olympic committee and athletes has changed training and competing.

Since its introduction, sports technology has been helping athletes prevent injury, enhance performance, and compete at elevated levels. So much so that the term “technological doping” has been used to describe the use of new technology when it drastically enhances performance. The most common example: Nike’s Vaporfly sneaker. The 2017 carbon-fiber plated shoe was banned from being used at the Tokyo Olympics because it could reduce the energetic cost of running by four percent compared to other shoes. Game-changing technology has helped teams across the globe compete in the 2020 games. During training, the Kenyan women’s volleyball team wears GPS devices to report heart rate, strength, and other vitals to coaches and athletic trainers. The Japanese baseball team uses radar-based technology to analyze pitches and hits, while 3D-printed gymnastics leotards and boxing shoes are worn by Chinese athletes to ensure better protection and fit while competing.

In Tokyo, a 3D athlete tracking system designed by Alibaba and Intel is on display. The artificial intelligence system captures athletes movements and analyzes biomechanics and joint position to understand athletes’ form. Coaches can use this information to adjust training and identify strengths and weaknesses. Also used in Tokyo, various robots designed by Toyota Motor Corporation to replace human volunteers. AI-powered self driving vehicles, so-called “Field Support Robots” retrieve items like javelins from the field, while other self-driving “Human Support Robots” guide spectators and deliver food and merchandise. The list of technologies used, both by athletes and by the International Olympic Committee, goes on.

High-tech training gives teams a competitive advantage in both training and competition. Especially for these Olympics, with COVID-19 restrictions still lingering during training, coaches and trainers have been able to use technology to personalize training and help their athletes reach peak performance. Despite controversies over technological doping, the use of technology in the Olympics has put a spotlight on the fascinating crossover between sports and technology.