June 27, 2017
Tokyo- Cutting-edge technologies are expected to stimulate popular interest in sports and underpin the market for athletic games and equipment, which has been shrinking in Japan because of its low birthrate and aging population.
Last autumn, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. conducted an event to demonstrate its virtual reality computer technology for news media before a match of Omiya Ardija, a professional soccer club in the J1 top division of the Japan Professional Football League, or J.League, at its home stadium in the city of Saitama, north of Tokyo.
At the event, reporters wore VR headsets and gloves connected to them, giving participants the virtual experience of a goalkeeper facing a shot.
NTT held a similar VR event in February, in which participants returned virtual serves from Japanese professional tennis star Kei Nishikori.
Information and communication technology has also been used to improve the way sports games are watched. For example, in the Tour de France bicycle race, NTT provided racers' speed, locations and other detailed information on a real-time basis, using data sent from sensors attached to their bicycles.
Meanwhile, rival telecommunications operator KDDI Corp. is developing a television system to record a sports contest from eight cameras and allow viewers to watch from their favorite angles and viewing locations.
In Japan, the market for sports, including sales of admission tickets and sports-related merchandise, contracted from 7 trillion yen to 5.5 trillion yen in the 10 years from 2002, according to a government panel on the promotion of sports.
Drops in earnings adversely affect the attraction of sports, leading to slower investment in human resources and equipment. To forestall such a vicious cycle, the government aims to promote the adoption of ITC for sports with an eye toward expanding the market to 10.9 trillion yen in 2020, the year of the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, and 15.2 trillion yen in 2025.
In a related development, Japanese professional baseball clubs are starting to adopt cutting-edge technologies to improve players' performance. The Yokohama DeNA BayStars and the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have joined hands with an American venture business and NTT Data Corp. , respectively, to analyze pitches by hurlers of other teams by means of VR technology.
Using collected data, the technology enables batters to view via VR headset pitches by an opponent pitcher expected to take the mound in the next game, an NTT Data executive said. US Major League Baseball clubs have shown interest in the technology, the executive said. Jiji Press
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