This Summer's Olympics Features New Tech for the Athletes, and Us

From the broadcasters to the competitors, everyone's getting new toys.


New tech in Rio de Janeiro aims to do everything from help swimmers remember what lap they’re on, to bringing remote viewers right into the action with virtual reality tours. The gadgets at this year’s games will have a little something for everyone and we wanted to provide a primer of what to keep an eye out for.

Tae Kwon Do Scoring Tracks Every Headshot

The PSS (Protective Scoring System) was first introduced at the 2012 London Games. Sensors were placed in the socks and trunks of the combatants to register the impact of strikes landed for scoring purposes. These additional sensors will be put in the headgear as well. Olympic officials are hoping to eliminate even more avenues for human error to affect the outcome of matches.

Google Street View Tours of the Venues

Rio-based employees of the tech giant walked through all of the Olympic venues carrying those ridiculous backpacks topped with the all-seeing eye: bad for them, good for us. Thanks to their toils, the rest of the world gets to see each venue featured in the games in up close and personal detail.

Underwater Lap Counters

Today, the longest swimming event is the Men’s 1500 Freestyle. Since an official Olympic Swiming Pool is 50 meters long, competitors in that event will have to go the length of the pool 30 times. At those distances, and at this level of competition, it helps athletes to know how many of those lengths there are left to go. Rio will be the first Olympic games to employ underwater LED lap counters in the middle of each lane to aid in just this very thing.

See? He has no idea how long he has left. via Giphy

Canoeing GPS

Because canoeing is not the biggest draw — due to the long distances, slow pace, and basic yawn factor — the Olympic Committee decided to put GPS locators on all the competitors’ boats. This year, spectators in the stands can watch the direction and speed of the competitors on a big screen rather than having to actually watch the event.

Archery Scoring Judges Are Out of a Job

This year, the traditional paper targets will still be visible during the archery competition, but behind them will be a state of the art sensor which will completely replace the judgement of a human referee. According to the website, the new system identifies the exact placement of the arrow on the target within 0.2mm. Another genuinely cool feature is that spectators will, “be able to monitor athletes’ heart rates in real time.”

THIS should be Olympic Archery

DudePerfect via Youtube

Virtual Reality

The pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremonies, the sad rehashing of the closing ceremonies, as well as one event each day will be broadcast in virtual reality. The offerings are only available for those in possession of the official NBC Sports app and a Samsung Gear VR headset. Events that will be filmed and shown with the technology include basketball, gymnastics, boxing, and diving. However, the VR broadcasts will be on a delay.

Drones, Drones, Drones

Obtaining never-before-seen camera angles is quickly becoming one of the staples of drones, and the way for the Olympics to get more TV contracts is to have better coverage. Drones will be everywhere at this year’s Games, providing viewing angles we’ve never gotten before. Let’s just hope they stay away from the athletes.