There may be gold medals hanging around American necks, but the most impressive thing coming out of the Pyeongchang Games is the super cool technology straight from the future. I’m sure even more is to come, but for now, here are the three pieces of Olympics tech with the biggest wow factors.
A fleet of drones knocked our socks off right from the get-go during the opening ceremonies — 1,218 Intel Shooting Star pre-programmed drones formed a snowboarder visual high in the sky, then morphed into the Olympic rings. These small plastic and foam drones (about a foot long weighing 8 ounces) can fly in formation for just under 20 minutes. Intel uses a computer to program where every drone needs to be in formation for each moment. Then, when it launches the program, the amazing show in the sky begins. Now, I don’t want to burst your bubble, but the drone show we all watched on television was actually pre-recorded (wah-wah). Intel had planned to do a live performance for those attending the ceremonies, but decided not to at the last minute, according to Wired. Intel plans to use these drones for more practical purposes too, envisioning their use in future search-and-rescue operations.
The daytime temperatures in Pyeongchang, South Korea, have been cold, with Accuweather reporting overnight temperatures dipping below zero. So for more than a year, CNET reports Ralph Lauren has had a team developing a heated jacket for USA athletes. These jackets are battery powered, made in the U.S., and use electronic printed conductive inks that are bonded to the inside. The heating component has two settings, and is all water-repellent, flexible and can last for 11 hours. You likely saw these jackets during the opening ceremonies when 244 athletes (the largest delegation ever from any nation in the history of the Olympic Winter Games) wore them on an unusually warm 32-degree night. Want to get your hands on one? Sorry. Team USAreports Ralph Lauren released fewer than 100 to stores with a price tag of $2,495. They sold out in less than 20 minutes.
Speaking of those frigid temperatures, Visa devised a way for fans and athletes to pay at Olympic venues without ever taking off their gloves. The gloves are one way to use Near Field Communication (NFC) for cashless payment at more than 1,000 terminals at the Games. Tech Republic explains the wearer simply taps the gloves on the terminal to pay for whatever the wearer’s heart desires. Visa also created a commemorative Olympic pin and a micro tag or sticker that can do the same thing. When you purchase one of these NFC-enabled items, you load it like a prepaid credit card, so there’s no chance of someone stealing your Olympic pin and draining your bank account. Visa told Tech Republic it won’t say how many devices it produced and sold, but they are on sale in Visa vending machines inside official Olympic superstores at the Olympic Park and Plaza.
Now, if you think these innovations are only for world-class athletes, let me draw your attention to another technology that debuted at the Olympics, but for which we are all grateful today. In 1960, CBS televised the Winter Olympics for the first time ever. During the men’s slalom, history.com reports that officials weren’t sure if a skier made it through a gate. They asked CBS to review a videotape to make sure, and “instant replay” was born.