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Japanese Technology and the 2020 Summer Games

Cities granted the prestigious opportunity to host the Summer Games often use the international attention as a chance to debut impressive technology. When Tokyo first hosted the Games in 1964, they wowed the world with the Shinkansen Bullet Train, which was at that time the world’s fastest. This debut cemented Tokyo as one of the most futuristic and technologically advanced cities on the world stage. Since 2013, as Tokyo was officially announced as the 2020 host, the world’s most populous city has quickly gotten to work to ensure that their second Summer Games is no less spectacular.

From safety to transportation, sustainability to swagger, here are the technologies that will make the 2020 Summer Games the most futuristic to date:

Safety & Security

Facial recognition technology is rapidly advancing, but organizers for the 2020 Summer Games intend to roll out the largest-scale use of a facial recognition system at an event to date. Since analog photo identification security has proven to be imperfect in the past, the idea of facial recognition technology at the Games was originally floated as a way to up security for the event and prevent the scalping of tickets. But with nearly one million foreign visitors expected to attend the 2020 Games, the organizing committees have decided to limit this endeavor to just athletes and event staff.

The technology will work something like this: all athletes and personell will submit photos of themselves prior to the beginning of the event. These photos will be fed to the facial recognition technology and synced with the individual’s identification badge. Entry to restricted areas in official venues will be controlled not merely by a human checking to make sure the photo printed to the badge matches the person wearing it, but by an intelligent software that will scan their faces. This system will manage nearly 400,000 athletes and staff, and significantly reduce the risk that badges are stolen, traded, or otherwise misused. If all goes well, this technology could soon become standard for event security around the world.


Environmentalism & Sustainability

Japan is among the world’s most active countries in effort to halt climate change and find sustainable sources for energy. As an island nation that imports more than 93% of its energy and has experienced disasters with nuclear power, Japan has a vested interest in environmentalist efforts to reduce carbon emissions and find alternative energy sources. With the 2020 Summer Games, Japan hopes to demonstrate environmentally responsible possibilities for the future.

Green Japanese technology will used in ways both big and small in 2020. The Athletes’ Village will be powered entirely by hydrogen, a venture that is estimated to cost more than $350 million USD in research, development, and installation – but generates absolutely no greenhouse gas emissions. Boeing, the University of Tokyo, and Japanese airlines are partnering to develop algae-based jet fuel for international flights carrying visitors to the Games. The organizing committee also plans to create medals for the athletes from recycled cell phones, and implement biodegradable single-use plates and utensils to cut down on food waste.

Algae harvesting in Japan. Source


Transportation & Communication

The huge metropolis of Tokyo can be tricky to navigate for tourists. But the organizing committee for the 2020 Summer Games intends to make major strides in reducing problems in transportation and communication.

Set to outdo themselves after debuting the Shinkansen in 1964, Tokyo is taking the 2020 Summer Games as their chance to inaugurate their Maglev train. Though magnetically levitating trains have been in use for decades in countries like China and Germany, Japanese technology has produced the world’s fastest. Capable of speeds of 374 mph, the Tokyo Maglev has broken all land records and will make its inaugural trip at the 2020 Summer Games.

But the Maglev won’t be the only futuristic form of transportation to look forward to in Tokyo. Progress in self-driving cars and artificial intelligence has made it possible for Japanese company Robot Taxi to announce its plan to introduce thousands of robot-driven taxis to the streets of Tokyo in 2020.

Even if foreign visitors to the Summer Games won’t need to talk with any human cab drivers while in Tokyo, they are likely to run into at least a few situations where being able to speak Japanese will come in handy. With neural machine translation making huge leaps in recent years, a Japanese government-backed company is developing voice translation technology to debut at the Games. The device will be small enough to be worn on a lanyard, and will be able to instantly translate voices between 10 languages.

But if you choose not to purchase an instant translation device, as a visitor to Tokyo in 2020 you can rely on the hundreds of robots that will be installed around the city. These robots are programmed to help tourists with translation, directions, booking reservations, their luggage, and much more. What’s more, the entire Athlete’s Village will be outfitted with polite and helpful robots.


Glitz & Glamour

Advancements in technology are often incredibly practical and useful, but some instances of progress are conspicuously for show.

Tokyo residents who can’t make it to the Games in person will be able to watch broadcasts on 85 inch, 7,680 by 4,320 pixels, 8K screens in some public spaces. That is 16 times the pixel definition of standard high definition screens.

One of the most honored traditions of the Games is selecting a legendary athlete to light the torch at the opening ceremony. But Tokyo could set a futuristic precedent in 2020 by engineering a flying car to transport the honorary athlete to light the torch. Toyota-backed start-up SkyDrive is working hard to make this dream a reality.

Finally, the entire city of Tokyo, regardless of ticketing, will get to witness something quite incredible during the Games. Gunning for the most awe-inspiring opening ceremony in history, Japanese astronomy start-up ALE is engineering a man-made meteor shower as a spectacular alternative to fireworks. By launching a small satellite into space that will shoot out tiny spheres of a secret chemical, ALE hopes to shower guests to the Games with a truly ethereal experience.



From robots and flying cars to green energy, Japanese technology at the Tokyo Summer Games is sure to impress. Witness the world’s most prestigious athletic competition in the world’s most futuristic city. Book your Tokyo Summer Games package today.

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