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AI judges readied for Tokyo 2020 gymnastics competitions

AI judges readied for Tokyo 2020 gymnastics competitions

Fujitsu lasers and neural networks combine to give Olympics judges a helping hand

Gymnasts competing in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics could see their efforts judged and scored by AI and 3D sensing systems, following successful trials of the technology at the International Gymnastics Federation World Cup Series earlier this year.

The system uses multiple LIDAR sensors to track the gymnasts and neural networks to build a 3D digital representation of their movements. These 3D models are then used to count the elements the athlete has completed, and the difficulty level, while also displaying the angles of their limbs and symmetry of their routine.

The AI assistant will be at work assisting judges at the 49th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany this coming October. Fujitsu, the company behind the system, hopes it will be incorporated into 10 gymnastics competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

Image: George Nott
Image: George Nott

To monitor a given competition, up to six lasers are set up around the bars or pommel horse which project up to two million points per second onto the athlete. Fujitsu’s “skeleton recognition software”, originally developed for medical rehabilitation, estimates the position of the limbs, the degree to which joints are angled, the number of twists and so on. The movements are matched against a “skills data dictionary” to assist in scoring.

Image: George Nott
Image: George Nott

The technology has been welcomed by gymnastics governing bodies, whose judges are trying to cope with marking increasingly sophisticated routines while writing on scoring sheets by hand while performances are in progress.

“Athletes must come first, and we have always sought to guard gymnasts against wrong decisions. Moreover, fair scores will increase confidence in gymnastics competitions and governance is also important for us as a sporting organisation,” explained president of the International Gymnastics Federation Morinari Watanabe.

The genesis of the system was in a golf swing diagnostic tool created by Fujitsu, which was seen by Watanabe.   

“When I first saw the golf swing tool, I immediately felt that it could be used for scoring in gymnastics competitions,” he said.

“If this system is perfected, inaccurate scores will become a thing of the past, and a long-standing dream of the sports world will come true,” Watanabe added.

Fujitsu says the system will also help gymnasts during training, and could be used to provide new experiences for spectators at events. Its application to other sporting codes is also possible, something Fujitsu has “clearly in the sights,” the company said.

Huge opportunity

Fujitsu is a lead sponsor of the Summer Games and Paralympic Games in 2020, and data centre hardware partner.

The company’s incoming president Takahito Tokita, told gathered media at the Fujitsu Forum in Tokyo last week that the Olympics and Paralympics were “extremely important” for the company and the country.

Image: George Nott
Image: George Nott

“The world will be watching, and there will be many visitors from around the world. So it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase the power of digital, it’s a huge opportunity,” he said.

“There’s this power of emotion, you’re moved by what you see, you’re excited, and you’re feeling overwhelming happiness. We’re progressing with projects that will manifest these emotions,” Tokita added.

The company’s new chief – who officially begins as president in June – said the sponsorship deal would put Fujitsu on the world stage.

“I feel the weight of my responsibility, because I do need to manage all of this. What we invest in the Olympic Games, and Paralympics will cultivate new markets for us once the Games conclude. Which will hopefully mean new opportunities for Fujitsu,” Tokita said.

“So I need to manage all this in a way so that it does bear fruit. And the weight of the responsibility is equivalent to the massive amount of money that we have invested!” he added.

The author attended the Fujitsu Forum, Tokyo as a guest of Fujitsu.

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Tags laserFujitsu3dAILIDARNeural Networkscomputer visionartificial intelligencegymnastics

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