Feb 16, 2022 - Technology

AI helps measure the jumps in Beijing

A laptop showing Omega's system for measuring jumps in figure skating

Image: Omega

When Nathan Chen made his medal-winning jumps in team figure skating, viewers around the world knew exactly how high he was flying. That was thanks to new technology from Omega, which uses AI to break down each element of the skater's performance.

Why it matters: New technology helps athletes, judges and fans better understand the fast-paced action of the Olympics.

How it works: Omega placed six cameras around Beijing's Capital Indoor Stadium, where the figure skating competition is taking place.

  • AI is used to home in on the skater, identify the jumps and measures the height and duration of each one.
  • The technology also generates heat maps, showing where athletes spent the most time during their performance.
  • Meanwhile, the cameras are used in speed skating to help determine which skater prompted a false start.

The big picture: As official timekeeper for the Olympics, Omega is responsible for the timing and measurement of all of the games and also for providing an array of data to athletes and broadcasters.

  • The Winter Olympics is a smaller affair, than the summer games with fewer events. For Omega, that meant sending 300 timekeepers and 200 tons of equipment to Beijing, compared to 530 timekeepers and 400 tons of equipment for Tokyo.
  • While cameras alone are used to measure the jumps in figure skating, other sports use positioning systems and sensors placed directly on the athlete. That, for example, is how Omega measures the height of the tricks being done by snowboarders.

Between the lines: As with last year's Tokyo Games, the Swiss company still had to navigate a host of logistical issues created by the pandemic. And it also had just eight months between games, compared to the nearly two years it usually has between Winter and Summer Olympics.

"Everything was time sensitive," said Alain Zobrist, who heads the unit responsible for Omega's Olympic work. "Everything had to be planned to the greatest detail."

Go deeper: The tech that measures Olympic greatness

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