On September 18, 2022, Yahoo Japan Corporation, a SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434) group company, and Kahoku Shimpo Publishing Co., the Sendai-based publisher of a major newspaper in Japan’s Tohoku region, held Tour de Tohoku 2022, a bicycle event aimed at supporting restoration efforts in Tohoku following the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.
2022 marked a return to form for the annual event that was first held in 2013. Tour de Tohoku was cancelled in 2020 in light of the outbreak of COVID-19, and in 2021 it was held on a reduced scale to prevent the spread of the virus. This year, 1,351 riders took to their bicycles to complete either the 100km Kitakami Course, which travels along a hilly coastline, or the shorter 65km Onagawa-Ogatsu Course, which features scenic mountain and ocean views. Both courses start and finish in Ishinomaki City, one of the municipalities that was severely impacted by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434) has supported Tour de Tohoku since its inception in 2013, and in 2022 it was also a major sponsor, along with other group companies, including Mapbox Japan, ASKUL, SB Technology and ZOZO. Along with other sponsors, SoftBank Corp. and its group companies displayed special exhibits at the event over the weekend.
AI Smart Coach offers tips on cycling form
Visitors to SoftBank’s booth could participate in riding simulations, try out bicycles not yet available on the market in Japan, and check their own cycling form using a service called “AI Smart Coach.” Launched by SoftBank on March 31, 2022, AI Smart Coach was developed jointly with the University of Tsukuba for school sports clubs and amateur athletes. With its study, comparison and recording functions, the sports training service helps users improve their skills with tools like AI-based skeletal motion estimation and marking, which helps users check and improve their form.
At the SoftBank booth, AI Smart Coach was used to film participants riding and pedaling for 20 seconds. After that, AI analyzed their riding form using skeletal analysis and checked for differences with a role model. Participants could, for instance, get pointers on their head, arm and leg positioning.
Real time maps powered by Mapbox visualize rider progress
Mapbox Japan, a joint venture between US-based Mapbox and SoftBank Corp. and provider of map platforms to developers, was another company with a significant presence at Tour de Tohoku 2022. The company brought a new and transformative element to the event with their Real Time Map.
As part of its efforts to assist reconstruction in the Tohoku region, Mapbox Japan launched a special website that utilized the Real Time Map. Riders who registered their icons and nicknames on the official Tour de Tohoku 2022 app could share and display their locations on the 3D map. Viewers and supporters could also follow riders’ progress in real time and send messages to cheer them on.
Other handy features of the Real Time Map included the ability to search for registered riders and watch live highlights from designated locations, such as the start and finish lines and aid stations.
Visitors to the Mapbox Japan booth could view the Real Time Map on a large-screen monitor and enjoy watching the scenery live via feeds from cameras strapped to the cycles of Mapbox riders.
Cyclists experience Tohoku’s recovery firsthand
While the wind was very strong due to a typhoon approaching on the day of the event, riders were luckily able to escape the rain. After completing the 100km course, SoftBank Corp.’s CSR Division Head, Masato Ikeda, said, "This is the ninth time I’ve participated in the Tour de Tohoku, and I was happy to be able to ride again for the first time in three years and meet so many people who have warm feelings for the Tohoku region. Although there are painful memories from the earthquake, it was great to experience how the area has changed and see firsthand how beautiful it has become.”
(Posted on October 6, 2022)
by SoftBank News Editors