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How 100 million digital torchbearers lit cauldron at Hangzhou Asian Games

Time:2023-09-26 Click:525


As people were wowed by the spectacular Asian Games opening ceremony on Saturday evening, especially the moment when a huge golden "digital torchbearer" spanned the Qiantang River and lit the cauldron tower together with an actual torchbearer in Hangzhou, the Global Times learned how more than 100 million online users gathered as one huge "digital torchbearer" via augmented reality (AR) technology to complete the first-ever "virtual and reality integration" lighting ceremony at a large-scale sports event.
In order to include as much of the public as possible in the torch relay and ignition ceremony, technology engineers conducted over 100,000 tests of more than 200,000 lines of code in the past three years for more than 300 different types of cell phones, the Global Times learned.
"We created a form of mass participation via digital technology to maximize people's involvement in the lighting ceremony, because sports is for the all people instead of just a few of them," said Sha Xiaolan, chief director of the opening ceremony of the Hangzhou Asian Games.
The Asian Games Digital Torchbearer Platform developed by technology teams under the Ant Group is where ordinary people can control a virtual character and participate in an online torch relay and ignition activities.
However, making it so large numbers of online users can participate in these activities was not easy. How did engineers guarantee nearly 100 million netizens with different types of cell phones were able to use the platform? How did they make each "digital torchbearer" feel more real while taking part in the events?
Ensuring the digital ignition interactive event ran smoothly in an Alipay mini-APP on old devices was a challenging problem, as the platform needed to take into account 100 million participants who used various devices and models of cell phones, Zhang Shaorong, general manager of the Alipay Asian Games Office of Ant Group, told the Global Times.
There are still a large number of residents using low-performance phones with small storage memory and slow operating systems in cities and villages in China and in other Asian countries. A large 3D interactive program would freeze on such devices and downloading an APP would use up a lot of phone memory, Zhang explained.
Fang Kai, a user and public welfare director of Ant Group's Alipay Technology Department, told the Global Times that the company used Galacean, China's self-developed 3-D interactive engine, to solve the problem. According to Fang, Galacean has been used multiple times to support large-scale activities such as "the collection of five blessing cards" during the Spring Festival, which involved more than 100 million users.
"With the usage of Galacean, the Asian Games Digital Torchbearer Platform can support 97 percent of smartphone devices, even those produced eight years ago. Users don't need to download an APP, but can simply join the online torch relay through the mini APP on Alipay," Fang said.
While Galacean ensured smooth usage for large numbers of netizens, the technology of AI digital humans enabled the mini APP to provide 20 trillion different digital avatars through personalized face sculpting, motion capture and costume design.
After the lighting ceremony, each "digital torchbearer" received a digital lighting certificate that was engraved with their unique image and stored on a blockchain through distributed technology.
Besides the visual feast at the opening ceremony brought by the integration of naked-eye 3D technology, AR and AI, the notion of a smart Asian Games is also reflected in a mini APP that provides athletes and media with various information services related to the Games and life scenarios.
According to the developer, the mini APP ensures that foreign users can use mobile payments as conveniently as locals. It includes 15 technology service providers including China Mobile, Tmall and Gaode Maps, as well as more than 20,000 merchants, providing 28 services including ticketing buying, transportation, game tables, accommodation, dining and tourism.
Currently, most of the mainstream 3-D interactive engines in the market, such as Unity and Unreal Engine, are developed by foreign manufacturers, but these "heavyweight" products have high requirements for mobile devices, Fang Kai, user and public welfare director of Ant Group's Alipay technology department, told the Global Times.
"It becomes very important to develop a lightweight, high-efficiency and high-quality Web3-D engine to create a digital torchbearer platform for the Asian Games that everyone can participate in," Fang noted.
In order to ensure the smooth operation of new and old models, Alipay's project team set up a large-scale test room. Using hundreds of cell phones of different ages and models, the team conducted more than 100,000 tests to help the Hangzhou Asian Games achieve the goal of "everyone can become a digital torchbearer through a cell phone."
"We hope that tens of thousands of people can also participate in the opening ceremony and be part of the live performance," said Sha Xiaolan, chief director of the opening ceremony of the Hangzhou Asian Games. "This also demonstrates that the Hangzhou Games is a smart Asian Games, to create the classic memory of the Asian Games with the power of scientific and technological innovation."
It is amazing that the cauldron is the first in the world to be lit with green zero-carbon methanol. At the same time, the opening ceremony brought a visual feast to the world through digital technology with brilliant electronic fireworks.
The spectacular opening ceremony of the Hangzhou Asian Games gathered popularity, reflecting China's ability and sincerity as an important power in Asia to organize such a sports event so that the Asian people can share the glory of the event, Zhang Yiwu, a professor from the Peking University, told the Global Times.
Analysts pointed out that the opening ceremony fully demonstrated the beauty of Hangzhou, such a famous Chinese historical and cultural city, while also reflecting Hangzhou and China's tradition of hospitality, openness and tolerance, which is a trait of Chinese civilization.
"It's not about just promoting Hangzhou's fame or further expanding China's influence, but it allows Asia to gain a great platform for exchanges and interactions, and it also shows that inside the world landscape, Asia's significance is now growing and becoming more prominent," Zhang said.
The ceremony ended with the theme song playing and simulated osmanthus petals drifted from the sky above the "Big Lotus," where the whole audience immersed in the city's autumn scenery.
Around 12,500 athletes from 45 countries and regions are taking part in the Hangzhou Asian Games from September 23 to October 8, a record high in Asian Games history.
Source: http://www.ecns.cn/news/sci-tech/2023-09-25/detail-ihctmvss0796610.shtml
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