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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. 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

Aug 7, 2021 - Sports

What we learned from the Tokyo Olympics

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

TOKYO — The Tokyo Olympics have shown that the global sporting event is increasingly tied to events beyond athletics — a reality that will be inescapable in future Games.

Why it matters: From the handling of COVID to protest rules and shaky economics, there are lessons for Olympics organizers in Beijing, Paris and beyond, as well as things to ponder for those considering hosting or sponsoring upcoming Olympics.

2020 was the deadliest year for environmental defenders

Engineer Sandra Cuéllar is one of many Colombians who've gone missing or been killed for their environmental activism. Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images

Latin America and the Caribbean is the deadliest region for environmental defenders, a violent record that has global repercussions.

Why it matters: The region has several of the most biodiverse areas of the planet, but they are constantly threatened by logging, mining or aquifer overexploitation.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate offices closing ahead of "Justice for J6" demonstration

Security fencing outside the U.S. Capitol ahead of a planned "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C.. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Multiple congressional offices will be closed Friday amid security precautions ahead of Saturday's rally in support of jailed Jan. 6 rioters, aides who have been instructed to work remotely tell Axios.

Why it matters: As the U.S. Capitol faces its first large-scale security test since the deadly attack, House and Senate offices are taking precautionary measures to protect staff as well as lawmakers.

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