Winter Olympics  cloud expertise units a special document

As world viewers waited with bated breath in early February to see whether or not Japanese determine skater Hanyu Yuzuru would nail a legendary quadruple axel through the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, it was seemingly that few would have thought of the quantity of behind-the-scenes work wanted to deliver these photos to their screens.

The Olympic Winter Video games have been as a lot of a problem for the host metropolis and organizers as they have been for the athletes. From venue set-up, lodging preparations, well being and security protocols, broadcasting necessities, to medal ceremonies and merchandise gross sales it has been a troublesome logistical puzzle for all these concerned, amid the covid-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions on spectators, athletes, and workers alike.

Digital transformation, nonetheless, offered some reduction. Expertise companies reminiscent of communications, content material supply, and manufacturing have been all migrated to the cloud, which allowed broadcasting and knowledge sharing to proceed easily regardless of strict covid protocols.

“A lot of the bodily infrastructure has been changed with cloud-based companies, considerably decreasing {hardware} prices whereas on the identical time bettering efficiency ranges,” says Jeff Zhang, president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, a unit of Alibaba Group that managed the companies. The migration allowed organizers to streamline their work, lessening the host metropolis’s burden of constructing in depth IT infrastructure, provides Zhang. Occasion managers have been additionally capable of make choices based mostly on real-time data, leveraging digital applied sciences reminiscent of AI to get a greater image of how every little thing was progressing.  

From venue to display screen

Most importantly, the Olympic Winter Video games elevated its use of cloud expertise to broadcast occasions globally. Historically, getting the Olympics onto individuals’s screens required costly worldwide telecommunication optical circuits, in addition to sizeable information and broadcast crews who needed to be flown into the host metropolis. However the Olympic Broadcasting Providers (OBS) did issues otherwise. For the primary time, through the Olympic Winter Video games, broadcasters have been capable of obtain reside footage by way of a public cloud—a extra agile possibility that prices a fraction of the value of different transmission strategies. Reside Cloud is a part of OBS Cloud, a joint broadcasting resolution of OBS and Alibaba that was pioneered through the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and adopted as an ordinary service throughout Beijing 2022.

“Most organizations have been pressured to hold out manufacturing and distribution workflows from residence and, through the disaster, depend on cloud companies to assist their newly distant manufacturing,” says Raquel Rozados, director of broadcaster companies at OBS. In comparison with the 2018 Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Beijing’s Winter Video games noticed a discount of just about 40% in on-site broadcast personnel.

For the primary time, broadcasters might remotely edit Olympic sports activities footage on the cloud, creating social media-friendly clips from reside classes in actual time. Multi-camera replay programs have been used for freeze-frame slow-motion playbacks from a variety of angles, creating an immersive viewing expertise. OBS says it produced over 6,000 hours of high-definition content material, made obtainable to over 20 broadcasters all over the world. Whereas processing such a lot of ultra-high-definition footage would have beforehand posed a big problem to broadcasters, the cloud made supply and enhancing way more manageable.

Having the ability to obtain high-quality footage from the cloud meant that broadcasters saved on flying groups of journalists, producers, digicam operators, and gear into Beijing to cowl the occasion. It was simply as effectively, as covid-19 laws difficult journey, which the Worldwide Olympic Committee has pointed to as the largest contributor to the occasion’s carbon footprint. “Total and wider than simply making use of cloud applied sciences to broadcasting, migrating the Video games’ core programs to the cloud is a vital progress in making the video games extra environment friendly and sustainable,” says Zhang.

Inclusive digital actuality

For contributors separated by geography or pandemic motion restrictions, cloud expertise made certain they weren’t unnoticed. Cloud ME—a real-time communications platform—offered cubicles during which contributors might venture full-body photos of themselves into different cubicles. Athletes competing in Beijing with out the accompaniment of relations have been in a position to make use of Athlete Moments, a cloud-based software to connect with family members from the venue.

When Chinese language followers watching the Winter Olympics fell in love with the mascot Bing Dwen Dwen and wished to amass plushies or keyrings, there would have been nobody higher to speak to than digital influencer Dong Dong, a 22-year-old Beijinger who actually lived within the cloud.

Created with Alibaba’s AI expertise to show human-like gestures and even dance strikes, Dong Dong’s job was to have interaction with a younger tech-savvy technology of Olympics viewers, answering their questions, offering enjoyable details concerning the Video games, and selling official merchandise. “Dong Dong can look, communicate, and act similar to a younger lady with a energetic persona and interesting appeal,” says Zhang. Between February four and February 20, her livestreams have been seen by over two million viewers, with a fan base of over 100,000.

Zhang emphasizes {that a} digital influencer like Dong Dong isn’t meant to switch real-life influencers who usually work with manufacturers and firms. However they do give manufacturers the choice of customizing precisely the kind of influencer they’d wish to work together with of their market. “Many of those digital influencers have their distinctive persona, charisma, and particular interplay types with the target market, which makes them match for retail manufacturers or occasion organizers,” he says.

A extra environment friendly, sustainable method ahead?

This peek behind the Winter Olympics curtain factors to the excessive stakes using on expertise to maintain massive occasions going. “One key problem is to make sure now we have a safe, resilient, sturdy, and dependable cloud infrastructure that may run all of the workloads easily and safely,” Zhang says. With organizers engaged on planning and scheduling, broadcasters ready for footage, and followers buying on-line, any outage or drop in service could possibly be a catastrophe. Fortunately, this wasn’t Alibaba’s first expertise Zhang factors to the corporate’s expertise with different massive occasions, reminiscent of Alibaba’s World Buying Competition, held on November 11 yearly.

Lately, different sporting occasions have additionally shifted—in a method or one other—to the cloud. Throughout the 2018 World Cup, 20% of the brief movies from the occasion have been produced by synthetic intelligence, utilizing Alibaba Cloud’s clever video manufacturing resolution to rapidly generate match highlights. And previously two years, the covid-19 pandemic has pushed organizers of occasions, small and huge, towards digital transformation and new tech-driven options, a development that’s unlikely to finish at the same time as pandemic restrictions raise.

To fulfill anticipated demand, expertise firms have been engaged on cloud functions with modeling capabilities. One among them is Alibaba Cloud’s Venue Simulation Service (VSS). Though not used on the Beijing Winter Olympics, VSS integrates cloud computing, synthetic intelligence, and laptop graphics for venue digital modeling and simulation of operations. By simulating bodily sports activities venues and actions that can happen inside them, occasion organizers will not have to be within the precise venues to get a good suggestion of the house.

“Cloud expertise can play a key position in serving to occasion organizers with planning,” says Zhang. By leveraging cloud expertise to chop down on the quantity of bodily infrastructure wanted and permit for distant working with leaner groups on-site, these huge occasions could possibly be extra inclusive, environment friendly, and sustainable.

“We imagine sooner or later, we are going to push expertise boundaries even additional to create an enthralling combined actuality,” he says. “Digital personas or digital influencers will discover new methods to have interaction with their viewers by way of immersive experiences or a metaverse-style settings. And cloud-based digital simulation of venue and operations could make planning of enormous occasions a ‘inexperienced’ enterprise.”

This text was produced by Insights, the customized content material arm of MIT Expertise Assessment. It was not written by MIT Expertise Assessment’s editorial workers.

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