Jul 30, 2021 - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Japan tests teleporting games and "remote cheering"

Japan's NTT is using augmented reality holograms to transport an event taking place at the Olympics to a museum elsewhere in Tokyo.

NTT is using augmented reality holograms to transport an Olympic badminton match to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Photo: NTT

Japanese telecom giant NTT is using the Olympics to show off a new generation of technologies that can transport the sporting experience to wherever fans are, instead of making them come to games.

Why it matters: Technology like this would have solved tons of problems this year, when no spectators are allowed at the actual Olympic venues. Unfortunately, it's all available only in demo form right now.

How it works:

  • In one example, NTT is using augmented reality technology called Kirari to transport badminton matches taking place today and tomorrow at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, 22 miles away.
  • In another, NTT is using fibre-optic cables to allow real-time remote cheering. It previously tested the technology for table tennis and had planned to use it with another sport at the Olympics.

Yes, but: The remote cheering demonstration is ready to run but still up in the air, since Tokyo's state of emergency means it isn't safe for Japanese fans to gather and cheer at the remote location.

Between the lines: The technology for both remote experiences is fully developed today, says NTT's Shingo Kinoshita, but making it cost efficient will take some time.

  • With remote cheering, for example, NTT hopes to eventually be able to use 5G or 6G cellular networks to deliver a similar experience without the need for a fixed fiber-optic connection.
  • Kirari, the hologram technology, has been tested beyond sports, including at SXSW in Austin to show the potential to merge in-person and remote artists in a single performance.

Not all of NTT's work was focused on transporting experiences over great distances. In a project with Intel, it aimed to improve the viewing experience for fans at the sailing venue.

  • The companies have set up a 50-meter-wide 12K monitor at the water's edge so those on land can view the race without having to use binoculars. The footage is stitched together from moving images captured from three ships and a drone.
A 50-meter-wide display brings the sailing action closer to those watching from land.
A 50-meter-wide display brings the sailing action closer to those watching from land. Photo: NTT
  • There may not be fans, but the display is still there to help media, coaches, officials and others to see the action on the water.
  • A separate, smaller 12K display was set up in the main press center to also allow media to view the sailing action without having to head out to the venue.

The big picture: The Olympics are typically used as a testbed for new technologies and the Tokyo Games were no exception.

  • However, the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty over the status of the Games meant a number of technology projects from NTT and other companies didn't get to make their Olympic debut in Tokyo.

The other side: Having an extra year to prepare meant that the cameras used to capture the badminton action were upgraded to a higher frame rate and resolution, improving the realism, Kinoshita said.

Go deeper