A reality, these days is that you can capture the movement of an athlete at every moment, write with just thoughts, and travel in space.
1. It is like being in the field because it’s a smart Olympics.
On August 8th, 2021, the <Tokyo 2020 Olympics> has officially come to an end. It was called ‘TV Olympics’ for the first time because it was held without audiences in the stands as the COVID-19 surge hits Japan. Despite the concerns that it might be the quietest and most boring Olympics in history, it attracted great attention from sports fans around the world. That is because the atmosphere and live moments of the Olympics were delivered as if we were there.
The official Olympic timekeeper, OMEGA has played an important role. Since 1932, OMEGA has served as the official timekeeper starting with Los Angeles Olympics and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will mark the 29th time. OMEGA completed the ‘Smart Olympics’ by recording every second of 339 games in 33 sports with a new measurement system. For example, an ‘image tracking camera’ installed around a swimming pool compares an athlete’s real-time position, speed, acceleration and stroke count. The ‘Pose Detection’ technology captures every movement of each joint and transmits the detailed movements of the gymnast to the judges.
The most cutting-edge technology was ‘motion sensing’. It was very difficult to distinguish the ranking when track and field athletes run on curves so far. This is because races over 200m with curves apply a cascading start with different starting points. So, the ranking could be confirmed only when the athlete passes the curved track and enters the last straight track. However, the motion sensor can detect exactly where and how fast each athlete is on the track. Of course, in real-time. You can just attach a motion sensor tag about half the size of a credit card to the start number and it is done. It is really simple, isn’t it? The motion sensor allows us to find out where the athletes are on the curve and where they reach their highest speed at some point.
Alain Zobrist, Omega CEO said in an interview, “Our goal is to tell the whole story of the games.” It is predicted that future sports games will go beyond simple records and data storage but analyze human athletic performance.
2. A quadriplegic patient’s imagination writing
About 20 sensors wrapped around the patient’s head are connected to the computer via long cables. The lying patient does not move at all, but the letters of the alphabet are being entered one by one on the computer screen on the other side. When the patient imagines writing letters in his/her head, a chip inserted in the patient’s brain receives the signal and enters the letters.
The ‘mind writing’ technology is another name for the ‘brain-computer interface (BCI)’ technology that reads brain waves from the brain with a computer. A research group at Stanford University’s Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute, which developed the technology, announced that by implanting a chip in the brain of a quadriplegic patient, reading the brain waves and entering text into a smartphone, writing is possible at a speed of 90 characters per minute.
The process is as follows with a closer look. First, the researchers ask patients to imagine holding a pen and writing on paper as if their hands were not paralyzed. Although the hand does not move at all, the brain sends specific motor signals to the hand to write a letter. A chip implanted in the patient’s brain reads through the signals. 100 electrodes on each chip receive neural signals from the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement, and transmit them to the computer.
It is now possible to accurately transform the patient’s brain signals into letters by using artificial intelligence (AI). AI reads the patient’s brain waves in chronological order and reconstructs the structure of letters. There is no problem with the complicated handwriting movements! It was able to enter 90 characters per minute in a sentence viewing and transcription test. It is a huge improvement compared to the typing speed of 40 strokes per minute in 2017.
BCI technology is now hope for people with neurological disabilities. However, as most new technologies do, it also has two faces. If it is abused, it can be used maliciously, such as hacking the brain, infringing on personal information, and injecting certain ideologies. This is why ethical discussions should come first regarding BCI. It is also important to soberly understand the impact of technology on society as much as the convenience of communication.
However, it seems clear that BCI will be an important foundation for improving the lives of people with neurological disorders. The research group said that they have a plan to test the technology in patients with paralysis who have lost the ability to speak in the future.
3. The dawn of a new universe era has begun
The era of private space tourism has begun. It is also predicted that the space tourism market will reach about $4 billion (4.594 trillion KRW) within 10 years. The starting point is British billionaire Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Group. On July 11th, 2021, he succeeded in space tourism aboard the manned spacecraft of Virgin Galactic which he founded. Virgin Galactic is a private space company under the Virgin Group and has been preparing for a zero-gravity experience tourism business in the sub-orbital section. The manned spaceship ‘Spaceship Two’, which consists of the mothership planes ‘Eve’ and ‘Unity’, reached an altitude of 16 km and Eve separated and reached an altitude of about 90 km. Passengers stayed in Unity for about 20 minutes in space and returned to Earth.
On July 20th, nine days after Branson’s successful space trip, Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos flew into space aboard the ‘New Shepard’ rocket of ‘Blue Origin’, a space exploration company he founded. Bezos became the first private space traveller who exceeded an altitude of 100 km. The first richest man (Bezos), oldest woman (Wally Funk), and youngest man (Oliver Daemen) on board were listed as astronauts.
Following the success of Branson and Bezos, the commercial space travel industry gained momentum. Virgin Galactic resumed space tourism ticket sales, predicting its first commercial space travel in the third quarter of 2023. The ticket price is about $450,000 (about 510 million KRW). That’s about $200,000 higher than the previous price. It is because the manned spacecraft carrying Branson has proved in a successful flight and the technological stability, right? Despite the high price, there are already 600 people on the waiting list. However, this is the amount that ordinary people are impossible to pay. This is why it will take a long time to popularize space tourism.
Richard Branson left a message that there are many more possibilities in the future. “The child who used to dream while looking at the stars is now an adult looking down at the beautiful Earth on a spaceship. The next generation with dreams, imagine what you would be able to do if we could achieve what we envisioned in this way.”