10 Technology Stunts At The 2008 Olympic Games
The Olympic Games have been dominating the web (and this antique thing called “TV” we keep hearing about) for the last couple of weeks. But it isn’t just the humans who’ve been building up for the event: the quadrannual event has inspired a number of technological breakthroughs, bargains and bizarrenesses as well:
1. The 8,000fps Camera
If someone breaks the World Record, but nobody gets to see it, does it actually happen? Certainly not for the vital sponsors of the show and the millions of viewers worldwide, which is why I-Movix has put together an eight thousand frames per second High Definition camera (normal video cameras record on 24 or 30 frames per second…).
That’s over a hundred times higher than the monitor you’re watching now. The idea is to get live-action smoothness in even the slowest motion replay, which makes sense, as four years of training for a ten second sprint is very bad TV. Though modern cinemagoers may be confused when they see such crisp slow-motion without hundreds of bullets on the screen.
2. World of Warcraft Tabard
World of Warcraft players supporting Olympic athletes might seem like lungfish supporting the Eagle Racing Championship, but Beijing fever has penetrated even as far as Molten Core.
A new tabard (say “top” but in a fake-medieval accent) with the interlocking rings symbol can be acquired by duking it out on a Player-versus-Player battleground. This item, awarding the symbol of international co-operation to those who simulate a never-ending war between two factions hellbent on each other’s destruction, gives a +5 bonus to Irony.
3. Pro Gamers Carry Torch
In proof that some gamers can do something more athletic than click “equip” as part of the Olympic effort, professional Starcraft and Warcraft Players took part in the iconic Olympic torch procession.
The Global Gaming League’s Digital Games competition was also an official Olympic “welcome” event this year – whether these events are harbingers of a bold new technological dawn or the final death of real sports depends on your opinion. And by “opinion”, here we mean “gamerscore”.
4. The Underwater Skateboard Cam
The Mobycam is the brainchild of Garrett Brown, whose name you don’t know but if you’ve ever enjoyed the Superbowl, Rocky, Star Wars or The Shining you should send him a note saying “Thank you”. If you don’t enjoy Rocky and Star Wars, get the hell off our site. He’s basically Scotty and Q-Branch combined for cameras, coming up with cunning recording solutions for challenging problems – for example: “How do we get good underwater footage of people who seem to be half-fish?”
The answer is the Mobycam, what appears to be a digital camera on a skateboard towed along the bottom of a swimming pool at high velocity. Those of you who’ve actually tried underwater skateboarding may realise that it’s a little more complicated than that, and were probably drunk. Ironically, if the Mobycam had been there you’d be YouTube stars by now.
5. Olympic USB Drive
Just because it’s the ultimate expression of human dedication and achievement doesn’t mean we can’t treat it like Pokemon!
That’s the thinking over at Lenovo, anyway, where they’ve been plastering the logo on several different models of flash drive and acting like that makes them worth extra.
“Phelpsizord, I choose YOU!”
6. USB Freedom Stick
For those who prefer to actually get “functional items” for their dollars, the Freedom Stick is what you’ll want when traveling to the current totalitarian country of choice. Beijing-bound journalists were shocked and appalled to find their internet access censored, mainly because until they actually went there these intrepid investigators just thought of China as the place where the General Tso’s and the cheap things came from.
A creation of the Chaos Computer Club, the Freedom Stick enables any computer it’s plugged into to surf anonymously, using routers and redirection to circumvent the overeager “security” measures at work.
7. The LZR suit
Speedo has been making a splash in the watersports this year, and no, we wouldn’t have resisted that pun for a million dollars. Their LZR racing suit has allowed athletes to break something between “nearly every” and “every goddamn” swimming record on or off the books.
The credit still goes to the athletes, of course – the suits advantages only work if you’re almost a shark already – but the friction reduction and hydrodynamic shape conferred on the wearer are completely non-negligible. The slightly famous Mr Phelps has described it as a “rocket”, which isn’t too far off the mark – some of the materials science comes from NASA, which is so far beyond the level of tech normally involved in swimwear we should count ourselves lucky the thing doesn’t come armed with laser beams to destroy rival swimmers.
8. Wii Swimmer
Not all the swimming technology is quite so advanced as the ultrasonically-welded LZR. Japanese gold medallist Kosuke Kitajima credits part of his win in the 100m breaststroke to none other than Mario himself. Apparently Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is great mental training for the real thing. Jumping, karting, basketball, tennis, inspiring Olympians to be victorious over the entire world – is there anything Mario can’t do?
And does this mean we’ll see Olympians brawling to smash each other out of specially constructed stadiums next time? Because that would rock.
9. The G-Trainer
With a name like “G-Trainer”, you’d expect this to be some futuristic equipment that reduces gravity – and you’d be right. Unfortunately this isn’t the cue for awesome zero-g football just yet; the machine reduces your apparent weight by sealing your lower body in a pressurized bubble as you run, lessening the effective impact on your knees and helping Olympic hopefuls and rehabilitating patients alike.
Studies at the University of Colorado have shown the physical benefits of running in the G-Trainer – though the psychological effects of running in a rubber donut on top of a giant balloon have yet to be quantified.
10. Anti Rain Missiles
There’s been a lot of press over the opening ceremony this year – both how utterly awesome it was, and the rather extreme lengths China went to achieve that awesomeness. Few measures can compare to launching missile attacks on the sky itself, which is exactly what they did for eight hours on the big night.
Chinese weather services tracked a body of rain clouds bearing down on Beijing the same way movie scientists track incoming asteroids or Godzilla, and responded the same way: by ordering someone to blow the hell out of it. Over a thousand “cloud-seeding” rockets were fired into the heavens before the ceremonies, guaranteeing that the rain would fall on secondary locations militarily designated as “anywhere the hell else”.