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Japan Innovates Infrared-Blocking Outfits for Olympic Athletes Amid Privacy Concerns

Cutting-edge fabric to shield Japan’s athletes at the 2024 Paris Olympics from invasive infrared cameras, balancing performance and privacy
June 28, 2024

Japan’s Olympic athletes are set to take a pioneering step at the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics with outfits designed to outsmart infrared cameras. As reported by Le Monde, athletes from Japan’s volleyball, track and field, and other teams will sport uniforms crafted from a cutting-edge fabric engineered to significantly absorb infrared light. This innovation aims to shield athletes from invasive infrared photography, akin to how stealth aircraft evade radar detection by deflecting signals away.

The technology behind these outfits has evolved in response to incidents where infrared sensors in devices like night vision goggles and thermal cameras unintentionally exposed athletes' private moments. For instance, the OnePlus 8 Pro’s "Photochrom" filter inadvertently revealed details like body contours or undergarments under thin clothing, an issue athletes faced during previous events.

In response to athletes' concerns and complaints, including reports of unauthorized infrared images shared on social media with inappropriate commentary, the Japanese Olympic Committee intervened. Collaborating with Mizuno, Sumitomo Metal Mining, and Kyodo Printing, they developed a specialized fabric that not only absorbs infrared light effectively but also offers the flexibility required for athletic uniforms.

Mizuno’s experiments demonstrate the fabric’s effectiveness, showing how a layer of their game uniform fabric, when combined with the new infrared-absorbing material, almost completely masks any underlying markings when viewed through an infrared camera. While multiple layers of this light-absorbing fabric would provide heightened protection, the challenge remains to balance this with athletes' comfort, particularly given the anticipated heat during the Paris Olympics.

With these advancements, Japan's athletes are poised not only to excel in their respective sports but also to lead in innovation aimed at safeguarding privacy and comfort in competitive environments. As the world watches the Tokyo Olympics unfold, this technological leap underscores Japan's commitment to addressing modern challenges with cutting-edge solutions.

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