The coolest tech innovations you'll see at South Korea's 2018 Winter Olympics

  • The world's fifth biggest exporter and 10th-largest economy, the country of 50 million is home to tech giants including LG, Samsung and Hyundai.
  • South Korea's Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning has teamed up with local companies to put together an experience they hope will drive home the country's dominance in advanced technologies.
Jean Chung | Getty Images
A South Korean child tries out the virtual reality simulator to experience Ski Jumping on February 3, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. South Koreans enjoy and experience the upcoming winter olympic games' categories at the Lotte World Mall one year before the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Already known as a booming tech hub, South Korea is gearing up to impress the world with cutting-edge innovations at next month's 2018 Winter Olympics.

Lost in the airport? Not to worry, there are talking robot guides for that. But what if you don't speak Korean? Have no fear — these robots speak English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. What about transport between the PyeongChang event's 12 venues? Hyundai's self-driving buses have you covered.

These are just some of the next-level technologies that South Korea will be implementing for the Winter Games, with more than 655,000 tickets sold so far.

SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The world's fifth biggest exporter and 10th-largest economy, the country of 50 million — which is about one-fifth the size of California — is home to tech giants including LG, Samsung and Hyundai. South Korea's Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning has teamed up with local companies to put together an experience they hope will drive home the country's dominance in advanced technologies.

Next-level viewing experience

South Korea's broadcasters are airing all their major events in Ultra-High Definition (UHD) standard, which is four times higher in resolution than HD content. The PyeongChang games will see the most widespread use of 360-degree virtual reality (VR) cameras of any major global sports event, giving at-home viewers a more immersive experience than ever.

Mike Egerton | PA Images via Getty Images

First-person perspective

You'll also get to watch events like figure skating from new perspectives with Korean mobile carrier KT Corp's "time slice," which captures athletes mid-motion from different angles, or witness a race from a first-person perspective by watching it from a camera mounted on the athlete's helmet.

ED JONES | AFP | Getty Images
Figure skaters Kim Ju-Sik (L) and Ryom Tae-Ok of North Korea attend a practice session at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung prior to the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 4, 2018.

'Ghost skier' technology

Broadcasters may also use "ghost skier" technology, whereby a live run is overlaid by a previous run and can be compared in real time. These advances could provide vital information in an environment where milliseconds can make the difference between gold and silver.

Offering viewers an even more engaging experience, a Hologram Live service will project athlete interviews from the slopes as holograms, letting you feel like they're right there in the room with you.

Groundbreaking connection speeds

SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg via Getty Images

All of this is made possible by state-of-the-art information communication technology (ICT), for which South Korea is well known. The games will be broadcast on the world's first fifth-generation (5G) network, whose transmission speeds are expected to be 1,000 times faster than existing long-term evolution (LTE) networks.

5G testing ground

"The 5G network is expected to revolutionize the broadcasting industry as it is capable of delivering massive data needed for VR or hologram services," local Korean website Yonhap News wrote in January.

Photo courtesy of KT Corp

KT, in partnership with Intel and with support from the South Korean government, will use the games as a test-bed for the technology before a fully-fledged commercial rollout scheduled for 2021.

"Through demonstrations of 5G network technology in PyeongChang, we will better prepare for its official commercialization," KT Chief Executive Hwang Chang-gyu said in a statement.

SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The industry players hope to introduce a new era for the ICT industry. According to a 2017 Yonhap News report, 5G speeds will allow users to "download an 800-megabyte movie in one second, compared with 40 seconds on the LTE-Advanced network, currently billed as the world's fastest."

A.I., A.I., A.I.

South Korea is aggressively developing applications in artificial intelligence (AI) and will be capitalizing on the Olympic Games to promote its AI advances to the world.

Youngki Hwang

The newest faces of this growing industry? Eighty-five robots across the event's venues, according to the PyeongChang Organizing Committee, which will be able to help visitors get around and offer game details, schedules and tips for tourists.

Airport robot guides

You'll see yet more robots in Seoul's massive Incheon Airport, taking passengers to their gates and offering flight information as well as cleaning up.

Photo courtesy of LG Newsroom

With the help of LG's voice recognition platform and connection to the airport's central computers, the Airport Guide Robot can understand multiple languages and can even scan your boarding pass for you.

Photo courtesy of LG Newsroom

Instantaneous translation

AI is being extensively leveraged to break language barriers. Korea's Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute has teamed up with local software firm Hancom Interfree to create GenieTalk, a voice-recognition instant translation app that will be able to translate Korean into 29 languages.

Courtesy of Hancom

Local AI firm Future Robot will be deploying 30 of its Furo-D robots, which in addition to conversing in multiple languages, is 5'3" in height with an emotional interactive avatar and a 32" touchscreen that allows visitors to take photos.

"It's a super popular feature - it has fun Olympic frame options. The robot also plays multiple songs and dances," a company representative told CNBC.

Youngki Hwang
Members of the popular Korean pop group "Seventeen" interact with a Furo-D robot at the ICT Pavilion in PyeongChang on January 31, 2018. South Korean robotics company Future Robot will be providing 30 Furo-D robots during the PyeongChang Games, which will act as guides and translators across the arenas and airport.

Through AI, the machine learns from hearing thousands of examples and teaches itself to improve over time. Robots equipped with the app will be roaming the event venues as well.

Drones and self-driving buses

Courtesy of Hyundai

For getting around, 5G-equipped autonomous buses developed by Hyundai and KT in partnership with Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport will be moving guests around the city's stadiums, slopes and rinks. Drones are also expected to provide broadcasting, entertainment and security services.

Courtesy of PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee
Day 41 of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Torch Relay saw a special appearance from Robot HUBO, the second torchbearer of the afternoon at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon. December 12, 2017.

South Korea has been chasing this Olympic bid for 18 years, having lost past bids to Sochi and Vancouver. It's sparing no expense — in addition to the Olympic organizing committee's budget, the government is pouring $10 billion into infrastructure including roads and high-speed rail. Despite this, ticket sales have been slower than expected — in part due to the region's extreme cold and geopolitical tensions on the Korean peninsula.

It might not be able to change its fiercely cold weather conditions or the behavior of its northern neighbor, but South Korea is on track to set a precedent as a host for both the Olympic Games and game-changing tech.

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