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[News] Robots in the Olympics…

Suppose you’ve seen the Hollywood blockbuster movie The Terminator, and the idea of robots being able to do what we do better scares you a bit. In that case, you might want to skip a ringside seat at the Tokyo Olympics basketball arena. 

Basketball is traditionally famous for break-time entertainment. Mashable reports at half-time in the USA vs. France game, a life-sized robot rolled in on wheels and took a shot from the free-throw line. The robot wore a basketball vest and the number 95, and apart from the wheels, moved just like a human basketballer. 

The robot’s aim was perfect, demonstrating how AI (artificial intelligence) technology in robotics has progressed. Then, the robot moved to the center line and scored again — the first time. 

The uncanny accuracy sparks thoughts of how the Tokyo Olympics is fast becoming known as the ‘technology Olympics,’ with AI technology making all the difference between qualifying and winning a gold medal.

AI is helping coaches and competitors work out how to shave vital seconds off times, analyze athletes’ performances for tiny discrepancies, and find training methods to strengthen their chances of a top place. 3D printed shoes and wearable tech uses drawn designs for optimum athletic performances derived from AI analyses.

For instance, Irish diver Oliver Dingley’s pool training used video analysis of his dives to adjust his technique. Hong Kong’s team of 46 athletes uses an antigravity treadmill provided by the Hong Kong Sports Institute to improve stamina with analysis aiding the prevention of injuries. Augmented reality glasses worn by cyclists show their heart rates and other information.

The South China Morning Post reports most well-funded teams deploy scientists, data analysts, and biomechanics experts to support Olympic athletes. Coaches recognize the value of injury prevention, and at the same time, the ability of AI technology to watch every second during training and recommend the small adjustments needed. 

Some argue the Olympics is vulnerable to ‘technology doping,’ giving some countries an unfair advantage over less-funded teams. Others might fear a dystopian future where robots compete against humans or even play on the same team. But it’s clear for now, the use of technology in sports is increasing in all directions — and just like basketball robots, every athlete desires a perfect score. 

What do you think of AI in sport? Leave a comment below — we’d love to know.

In other news

  • Slack isn’t slacking now. With a $27.7 billion acquisition, Salesforce has purchased the popular messaging software Slack. According to a report in Engadget, Salesforce representatives said Slack would become the interface of its Customer 360 tool. This acquisition may help restore some of Slack’s luster that it lost when Microsoft pushed its own Teams app as competition during last year’s shutdown and work-from-home bonanza. If you want to learn more about Salesforce’s plans for Slack, reps from Salesforce and Slack will be streaming an event on August 17th at 1 PM ET.
  • Employees give video game studio the cold shoulder. Workers at Activision Blizzard walked out on Wednesday to respond to the company’s handling of a lawsuit detailing sexual harassment and gender discrimination. 

    According to National Public Radio (NPR), California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a complaint that claimed the company “fostered a sexist culture where women were paid less than men and subjected to ongoing sexual harassment including groping.” Over 2000 employees, furthermore, signed onto a statement in which they allege their “values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of [the] leadership.” They claim that the leadership has long known about the “frat boy” culture, including the existence of things such as the ‘Bill Cosby Suite’ at the company’s BlizzCon conference. 

    This is a developing story worth watching, as Activision Blizzard is a major player in the gaming world, responsible for games such as World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. 

  • Colorado requires accessible websites. In a major victory for accessibility advocates, Colorado passed a new law mandating all state and local government websites meet recognized accessibility standards. These include requirements that websites function for people with limited vision or mobility challenges. Each agency will need to submit a plan to the state before July 1, 2022, and implement all accessibility standards by July 1, 2024. On Colorado Public Radio, Julie Reiskin, Executive Director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, noted that these changes are necessary “particularly after the year we just had. People who were blind couldn’t sign up for vaccines, get information online, sign language interpreters weren’t widely available.”
  • Moves to shut the FBI surveillance warrant loophole. In other U.S. news, 27 digital rights groups, including Fight for the Future, sent a letter to Congress to back an amendment to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). The letter calls for an end to surveillance in batches, whereby innocent people get caught up in requests, including those who simply came into the FBI to do repairs and maintenance. One signatory to the letter, San Francisco-based digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), says “the government collects a large amount of ‘incidental’ communications” from individuals who are “swept up in the intended data.” The Lofgren-Massie amendment is to be decided before the August recess. You can add your voice to petition Congress here.

Tip of the week

Have you considered whether or not your website is accessible? Whether you’re required to do so or not, making some small changes to the way you present information can make a huge difference to all of your site visitors. People with disabilities will be able to access all of your site information, but by improving your site accessibility, you can also enhance the overall usability of your site for everyone who visits.

To learn more about accessibility standards, visit the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative as well as the information at Usability.gov. And for a practical primer on how to get started, check out A Primer to Web Accessibility for Designers from UX Planet. 


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