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At Tech-Infused Winter Olympics Opening, Standards Set the Stage for Gold

From augmented reality to pyrotechnic feats, a closer look at standards' role in the XXIII Olympic Games

2/13/2018

As the world's best athletes aim for gold during the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, many turn to technically innovative methods of training to supplement their hard-earned skills. In 2018, disruptive technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and drones have captured the Olympic spotlight, from the opening ceremony to training techniques. The American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) members and accredited standards developers help assure the safety of athletes and the cheering crowds, and give life to the technology-infused festivities, which run through February 25.

Standards at the Opening Ceremony

This year, the Olympics opening ceremony kicked off with remarkable technical aids—from augmented reality to a pre-recorded drone show that illuminated millions of television sets and mobile devices. The pre-taped show featured so many drones (over 1,200) that the televised Olympic ceremony achieved medal-podium-worthy recognition by breaking a Guinness World Record for most unmanned drones flown simultaneously.

As drones take off as the latest showstopper in large-scale entertainment—from the Olympics to the Superbowl—standardization work is integral to support their safety and seamless operation. ANSI's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Standardization Collaborative (UASSC) works to coordinate and accelerate the development of the standards and conformity assessment programs needed to facilitate the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, or drones) into the national airspace system of the United States. The collaborative is also focused on international coordination and adaptability, with the goal of fostering the growth of the UAS market.

Development and participation in drone standardization is critical at a time when projections have indicated that the economic potential within the global market is expected to grow by $140 billion over the next 10 years—with the potential to infiltrate a number of sectors far beyond spectacles like the Olympics. [See related article, ANSI's Joint Member Forum Meeting Launches Discussions on New Opportunities for Standardization as Tech Expands]

Technological feats like the opening ceremony are just one part of the innovative Olympic Games. Top Olympians have revealed that they have turned to virtual reality to train for the gold. Alpine skiers, for example, use VR to replicate the intensity of their sport. But elite athletes aren’t the exception when it comes to VR Olympian experiences. This year, more than 50 hours of live virtual reality coverage of the 2018 Winter Games will be available to view for fans at home. Various news sites have also rolled out augmented reality features, so that viewers can see their favorite Olympians in 3D action.

While athletes and their fans increasingly rely on virtual reality for innovative Olympic experiences, the standardization community is at work to develop standards to support a suite of artificial intelligence and its applications—including virtual reality.

The newly formed international standardization committee on artificial intelligence (AI) – International Organization for Standardization / International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1, Information Technology, Subcommittee (SC) 42 is intended to serve as the focus for ISO/IEC JTC 1’s standardization program on AI. The U.S. leads this new subcommittee, with ANSI serving as the secretariat. Wael William Diab (U.S.) is chair of ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 42 and senior director at Huawei. In addition, the U.S. has played a leading role in JTC 1 since the committee’s inception three decades years ago. [See related story: ANSI Celebrates 30 Years of ISO/IEC JTC 1 Achievements in Information and Communication Technology]

Other active standards that support virtual reality include INCITS/ISO/IEC 14478-1-1998 [S2009], Information Technology - Computer Graphics and Image Processing - Presentation Environment for Multimedia Objects (PREMO) - Part 1: Fundamentals of PREMO, which specifies techniques for supporting interactive media applications that recognize and emphasize the interrelationships among user interfaces, multimedia applications, and multimedia information interchange.

It supports a wide range of multimedia applications, including virtual reality environments. The standard, developed by ISO and IEC and adopted as an American National Standard (ANS) by the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), promotes the development of interactive technology.

IEEE last year announced its Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (AR) Standards Projects. Participants working on the new standards projects include device manufacturers, content providers, service providers, technology developers, government agencies, and other parties relevant to VR/AR technology advancement. The IEEE VRAR Working Group has participants from more than 200 companies and institutions worldwide, and is dedicated to building consensus on VR/AR standardization.

Stunning optics are always a major component of the Olympics, with pyrotechnics on full display to captivate the audience who were at the show and millions more viewing from home. Standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a member and audited designator of ANSI, ensure that professional fireworks shows meet safety guidelines for workers and spectators alike.

NFPA 1126, Standard for the use of pyrotechnics before a proximate audience, provides requirements for the safe use of pyrotechnic special effects before a proximate audience at both indoor and outdoor locations to protect property, operators, performers, support personnel, and viewing audiences. Application includes use in conjunction with theatrical, musical, or similar performing arts productions in theaters, stadiums, concert halls, etc.

For related Olympic news on how Standards Fuel the Sports of the Winter Olympic Games, check out the ANSI Blog.

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