The Future is Gold
Olympic Innovations: Technology That’s Changing the 2014 Winter Olympics
Ubersense Coach and Coach’s Eye
Apps: Most of us are visual learners. Ubersense taps into this simple fact by allowing athletes to record, analyze and upload slow-motion HD footage of their activities. Coaches can then add videos of their own, compare videos side-by-side and annotate with drawings and audio commentary. U.S. skeleton and Bobsledding teams and coaches have been using the app for training for this year’s games. The updated version holds five stars on iTunes, costs less than a piece of penny candy, and extra features for individual sports are available for in-app purchase. Coach’s Eye is a similar app used during training by several Olympic athletes.
The Bloshoy Ice Dome
Architecture: Seen from above during the day, the Bolshoy Ice Dome looks like an iMac’s mouse, sans grey Apple logo. From the ground, the 13,000-seat arena’s undulating glass sides give it a more standard ice hockey arena feel. But it’s at night that the venue shines, literally — LEDs show the score of a game, and a puck animation flashes when either team scores. Cool, but worth $302 million (more than twice its intended budget)? Depends who you’re asking.
Fisht Olympic Stadium
Architecture: International design firm Populous created the Sochi Olympics’s venue for the opening and closing ceremonies, Fisht Stadium, using as inspiration Fabergé eggs and the area’s surrounding snowy mountains. The stadium’s two main shells are made of a translucent polycarbonate and steel (8,000 tons of it, apparently) and flank an open third side “plaza”. After the games, Fisht will play host to international soccer games (45,000 fans) and smaller local games (25,000 fans).
Prinoth Snow Grooming Machine
Dynamics: To help tame Rosa Khutor, the Sochi Olympic committee awarded Prinoth, a company headquartered in Vipiteno, Italy, a €15 million contract for 63 “snow groomers”. They’re exactly what they sound like. The cute Husky, built for transporting people and equipment, contains a Mercedes diesel engine, while the monstrous Beast, the grandaddy of the line, comes equipped with the Prinoth Master Blade, which has an unsurpassed track working surface 188 square feet. Other groomers in the line include the Pininfarina-designed Leitwolf and the BR 350, the number one groomer in North America for the past seven years.
Dynamics: The guys from Cool Runnings don’t stand a chance against this year’s American squad. Although the Americans haven’t won a Bobsled gold in 78 years, they’re currently the favorite thanks to a BMW-designed sled (and lots of training and skill). Lead Designer Michael Scully’s new fiberglass-wrapped body was so light that BMW added 110 pounds of dead weight to meet minimum weight requirements. Watch it in action for the first time on February 16th.
Polar Expedition VW Amarok
Dynamics: As GP Octane editor Amos Kwon noted in his recent review; of the VW Amarok, “getting to plug your line of cars at the next Olympics is quite a feat.” VW earned the honor by producing a car that completed the 16,000 mile journey from Moscow to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, taking what The Guinness Book of World Records has documented as the longest route within a single country. Because much of the journey is unpaved, the Amarok features “Bigfoot” tires while special insulation keeps passengers warm, despite temperatures of -58 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dynamics: “Practice like you want to play in the finals” is a nice sentiment, but how are you going to practice year-round on Rosa Khutor? To overcome this challenge, SkyTech Sport Ski & Fit — which has locations in both LA and Munich — built a Sochi Mountain Ski Simulator that allows athletes to ride the mountain before they even get to Russia. A three-unit multimedia-projection system generates 170 square feet of slope; as athletes ski, a drive system creates realistic G-forces. Motion algorithms even allow athletes to choose snow conditions and adjust the terrain.
Under Armour Skate Suits
Fabrics: Several of Lockheed Martin’s 60,000 engineers joined Under Armour scientists in a two-year process that utilized high-speed cameras and over 300 hours of wind-tunnel testing to analyze how air flows around speed skaters. The result of their research was the Mach 39, the most advanced speed skating suit ever created. Among other technologies, it features silver patches on the inner thighs that reduce friction by 65 percent, a stretch zipper that bypasses the throat and circumvents the body and extra breathability on the spine, as well as moisture-wicking technologies.
Great Britain & Adidas Winter Kit
Fabrics: For the past three decades, Adidas has been the official sportswear provider for the British Olympic Association. This year, they produced 267 different items of apparel, including the heat pant — a heated snow pant — and Powerweb, skintight apparel that uses TPU (thermoplastic Polyurethane) to reduce muscle fatigue.
Natick Army Labs Vaporshell
Fabrics: While the U.S. tapped Under Armour and Lockheed Martin to develop speed skating suits, they went to Burton and the army to make a snowboarding jacket. Researchers at the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center (also known as the Natick Army Labs) joined forces with the Vermont-based apparel company to create the Dryride Vaporshell laminate, a waterproof, breathable material developed specifically with Sochi’s temperate conditions in mind.
Eye-Tracking Ski Goggles
Wares: When you spend $58,000 on a pair of goggles, you expect something awesome. Such is the case for snowboard cross athlete Zoe Gilling’s “X-Ray Specs,” which use two cameras — one focused on her eye and one focused on the course — to keep her peripheral vision in front of her at all times. This means she can keep better tabs on the other three racers in her heats.
Wares: The Mako, developed by Easton, features three innovations that make it the fastest skate in the rink. The first, an aggressive blade pitch, positions an athlete over the skate, helping him or her put more force into the ice. The second, asymmetrical patterning, help generate speed and power through cornering. Last but not least, the trademarked active Extendon guard, allows for natural, intuitive movement.