Extreme Tech Meets Extreme Athletes in Aspen
At the winter X Games, Intel mounted a wireless sensor module to slopestyle and big-air competitors' snowboards in an attempt to quantify awesome. I'm a fan.
Feb 10, 2016—
The 21st annual X Games took place in Aspen at the end of January, and I've finally watched some of the recorded coverage. It's not something I do often—I generally prefer being on my snowboard to watching far younger, better athletes compete. But when Intel announced last month, at the Consumer Electronics Show, that it would be using a sensor module, mounted to competitors' snowboards and containing Intel's Curie chip, to track riders' speed, rotation and other statistics in real time, I was pretty stoked.
What makes this device, about the size of a hockey puck, technologically interesting is that Curie processes the sensor data and serves it up instantly, transmitting it to receivers (which were mounted along the X Games courses) over Bluetooth. This real-time availability might not be of great value to the snowboarders, since they're too busy hurling themselves off jumps and sighting their landings to read the statistics, but from a spectator's and coach's point of view, the stats serve up great supplementary information. Plus, I would guess those athletes, along with their coaches, have been studying the sensor data and watching the corresponding footage intently since the X Games ended, as part of their training regimens.
In both events, only speed, distance, rotation and g-force (of landings) were conveyed to viewers in real time. With the pace of competition and the number of athletes running one after another, that is probably as much data as viewers could easily and quickly read on the screen. It may have been fun to see these stats in the halfpipe competitions, but in that event, riders do too many tricks, too quickly, to give viewers much of a chance to keep up with the stats in real time.
Art Versus Science?
But that begs the question: How much will the technology bleed into sports and sports equipment? When an Aspen Daily News reporter asked Intel's VP, Steven Holmes, whether the tech firm could embed a smaller version of the sensor module into a baseball, Holmes replied, "Anything is possible." But when pressed about whether Intel is working toward that very thing, he would not comment.
What do you think about the marriage of pro sports and the IoT? Does it improve, degrade or do nothing for the fan experience? Tweet me your take @iotjrnl.
Mary Catherine O'Connor is the editor of Internet of Things Journal and a former staff reporter for RFID Journal. She also writes about technology, as it relates to business and the environment, for a range of consumer magazines and newspapers. Alas, her most impressive trick is a frontside 180 with a few inches of air.
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