Business / Tech

Student’s idea for app that pulls up athlete profiles on demand gets nod from Tokyo organizers

JIJI

A student’s idea for making a facial-recognition app for smartphones that can provide speedy access to the profiles of Olympic athletes who appear on TV has drawn interest from the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, which hopes it can meet the changing needs of modern sports fans.

The committee picked the idea proposed by Eisuke Sugitani, a 20-year-old junior at Doshisha University in Kyoto, as the best in a student contest centered on new media aimed at improving the public’s experience with the quadrennial sporting event.

If someone wants to know more about a particular athlete when watching the Olympics and Paralympics on TV, it will be difficult to find that person on the internet without first knowing the athlete’s name.

Sugitani came up with the idea for the app while thinking about how to familiarize Japanese television viewers with the thousands of foreign athletes who participate in the games.

The problem must be the same for foreign fans watching Japanese athletes, he said.

The basic idea is to enable immediate access to information on a specific athlete simply by pointing a smartphone at the athlete’s face on TV.

Sugitani, who is interested in how sports and technology can be linked, wanted to create something that could be used easily, after giving thought to the behavioral tendencies of young people like himself.

Another idea he has is to display sports videos on the internet that are sorted by artificial intelligence on the basis of one’s search history.

Tokyo’s organizing committee has begun looking into making the student’s winning idea a reality.

Takeshi Tachi, head of the committee’s Technology Services Bureau, said the app would likely be useful because even people who are unaccustomed to conducting internet searches could use it, giving it a versatilility that would appeal to many generations.

While admitting to steep challenges with development, including the face-recognition technologies and image rights involved, the committee will aim for ease of use and try to build the student’s app as envisaged by using existing technologies, Tachi said.

The organizing committee is also considering an alternative system for delivering real-time information about Olympic events to the app that would allow people to access information on athletes smoothly without searching online, he said.

Sugitani said he hopes to include information on daily life at the athletes’ village as well.

“One way to realize the idea is to let athletes spontaneously post (information on their lives) on a platform prepared by the organizing committee” for such a system, Tachi said.