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[Korea and the fourth industrial revolution <5-2 Health>] Will technology change the very nature of sports?

May 22,2017
KT Wiz fans watch a baseball game on April 5, 2016 with a virtual reality system that offers a 360-degree view of the entire stadium. [KT WIZ]
While no industries will be able to circumvent the impact of the fourth industrial revolution, the sports industry, which encompasses a large number of subcategories spanning from player management and facility operation to product sales, may be one of the largest beneficiaries.

Dr. Sang H. Choi, a senior scientist at NASA, once predicted the emergence of an era in which leisure and pleasure become the central elements of life, enabled by the development of information technology. The Korean sports industry, for which leisure and pleasure are keys, has already experienced drastic changes stemming from technological advances in the recent years.

During the Rio Olympics last year, the Korean archery team claimed four golds to reign as the champions, sweeping the podium for both male and female team and individual events. Here, the adoption of advanced training methods had made all the difference.

Since archery requires an exceptionally high degree of concentration, it is crucial that athletes are able to stay calm in front of large crowds and during unexpected events. The team used “neurofeedback” technology, which allowed trainers to monitor archers’ brain activities. Archers were able to channel and create positive brainwaves to increase the level of their focus as a result of careful monitoring.

For fans, technological development means they can still feel the adrenaline of a sports game even when they are not at the stadium.

KT Wiz, a local baseball team sponsored by KT, one of the largest telecommunication companies here, launched a virtual reality service last year. The system offered a 360-degree view of the stadium, thanks to state-of-the-art cameras installed in every corner of the stadium, including behind the home plate and in dugouts.

Even if a KT fan could not make it to the game, he or she could still get some glimmer of experience akin to having been at the stadium with just their smartphones and VR goggles.

“The size of the sports industry as of 2015 was about 43 trillion won ($38.21 billion) in terms of revenue,” said Park Young-ok, a director of Korea Institute of Sport Science. “With all the possibility it holds, the industry is a blue ocean and Korea must move in fast to not fall behind.”

But Kim Yoo-kyum, a professor of sports management at Seoul National University, warned of the danger of hastily trying to apply new technologies in the sports industry.

“Drastic technological advances may challenge the fundamentals of what sports is," said the SNU professor. “If it becomes possible for athletes to increase the level of their performances by relying on technologies rather than hard work and training, can we still call that sports?”


BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]




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