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Drone “Fireworks,” 5G communications, and Streaming VR Coming to Olympic Games

Intel says its new Olympics sponsorship is about “changing the experience” for the digital generation

2 min read
Drones glow like fireflies in a demo of Intel's drone light show technology
Drones dance like fireflies in a demo of Intel's drone light show technology
Photo: Intel

Who needs fireworks when you’ve got drones? Or event tickets when you’ve got virtual reality?

That’s Intel’s message as it prepares to bring technology to the 2018 Winter Olympics and future Olympic games.

The company today announced that it had joined the Olympics partner program as a major sponsor through 2024. No dollar figures were mentioned at the press event, held in New York City and via web conference, however, the rumor mill has been pegging the deal at nine figures, or somewhere over $100 million.

Intel was far more specific about the technologies it plans to deploy for the Olympics—drones, virtual reality, 5G communications, and artificial intelligence. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich suggested that Intel is also working with the Olympic committee to develop new training technology, but didn’t give details. Krzanich was joined by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who is clearly concerned about bringing young viewers to the games.

“Sports has to go where the people are,” he said, “and many people are leading a digital life.” Technology, he continued, “has a huge potential to connect the games with the young generation.”

Drones, according to Intel CEO Krzanich, will have two roles at the Olympics—entertainment, in the form of light shows, and to carry cameras for broadcast and other purposes. The ultralight entertainment drones, he indicated, will swarm the skies, acting as a safe and “more creative” replacement for traditional fireworks. These drones are so safe, he says, Intel staff members have launched a hundred at a time and purposely run into them. The heavier, camera-carrying drones, used to “measure and observe” athletes, will use obstacle avoidance technology still under development, Krzanich indicated.

On the VR front, Krzanich promised to bring two recently unveiled technologies to the 2018 Olympics. The company will stream 16 live and 16 on-demand events using the its True VR technology, which made its debut with the 2017 NCAA basketball playoffs. It will also showcase its 360-degree replay technology that recreates moments in events from the point of view of specific players, first used at the 2017 NFL Super Bowl.

Intel's Asha Keddy and Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings surrounded by members of Intel's 5G development teamIntel’s Asha Keddy (left) and Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings promote the company’s 5G technology surrounded by members Intel’s 5G development teamPhoto: Intel

As for 5G, Intel vice president Asha Keddy, along with the company’s 5G development team and Olympic three-time gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, pushed a symbolic button to turn on Intel’s 5G test network in Silicon Valley, and promised a 5G network would be running throughout the venues of the 2018 Winter Olympics. That part of the announcement was live-streamed using the technology.

Artificial intelligence will, Krzanich expects, enable more detailed analysis and comparisons of player performances.

And going beyond the company’s current eight-year sponsorship deal, Krzanich said, Intel expects to have new technologies that are Olympic contenders, including more AI, deeper virtual experiences, and new roles for drones and autonomous vehicles.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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