Every time we see the Winter Olympics, we are not only excited to see the competition between some of the world’s best athletes. We are also excited to see the competition between tech innovators, constantly striving to come up with new ways of improving winter gear.
Of course, after a while, these innovations are no longer reserved for professional athletes and are handed down to us, the general public. This year the gear innovations were so promising that some people thought they might be the next “doping” scandal. Let’s look at what made news.
Red, White and Blue for Ski Apparel
Turns out not only the fabric and the way it is layered, but the colors it has been dyed in can have an impact on a ski suit’s aerodynamics.
Using “the same technology used in missile guidance system” aerospace engineer worked together with Olympic skier Bode Miller to develop this year’s apparel for Team USA’s ski and snowboard teams. Turned out one of the best color combination was also very patriotic, so the suits of both teams were adorned with the Star-Sprangled Banner.
It must have worked, as the snowboarding team won a total of 5 medals (3 gold and 2 bronze ones) and Bode Miller got the bronze.
The BMW Bobsled
In its long history BMW has entered many manufacturing fields – cars, motorcycles, airplane engines, even office supplies. Perhaps it will come as no surprise that the German company is also producing bobsleds and even struck a six-year contract with the U.S. Olympic Committee to help the two-man men’s bobsled team, which sadly hasn’t won a gold medal for 78 years.
The bobsled was built using the same lightweight carbon fiber that BMW uses in its latest generation of all-electric cars. Furthermore, its designer, Michael Scully, dedicated a lot of time improving the aerodynamics and believes his insights can be applied to BMW cars too.
Sadly, no gold for Team USA this year, either, but we’ll keep watching what BMW will come up with next.
The LightRail Zipper
As the name suggest, the LightRail Zipper is the next innovation in light zippers for jackets. Developed by Columbia Sporstwear, it was worn by the teams of Russia, Canada and the U.S. The zipper is not just extremely light, but also waterproof and practically invisible when zipped up. Its metal part seals the jacket in such a way, that neither wind nor water can enter.
Due to its simple design, it lends itself to further modification by clothing designers. While Columbia hasn’t given a release date yet, we would love it if it hit retail shelves sometime soon.
The GoPro HD HERO2®
While preparing for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, GoPro teamed up with renowned half-pipe snowboarder Shaun White to help him improve his training.
While practicing in a remote airbag half-pipe in Australia, “The Flying Tomato”, assisted by his coach, Bud Keene, he would place a few GoPros on a 22-foot wall nearby. This way he had a real-time view of his trajectory and could see exactly where he lands, so he could improve his performance.
No medals for him this year, but knowing how hard he trained, we shouldn’t judge him too harshly.
The Super Cool Speedskating Clothing
During the Winter Olympics, Team USA’s speedskaters would have looked something like action heroes. And no wonder – their uniforms, manufactured by Under Armor were developed in cooperation with aerospace tech company Lockheed Martin.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, the suit was not made more slippery. On the contrary – small bumps were placed at certain places of the suit, so as to disrupt the air faster, much like a golf ball does. The efficiency of the invention was confirmed in wind funnel tests.
Yet, the suits were ditched at the very beginning of the Winter Games, but some think the decision may have been premature.
Nike LunarENDOR QS Boot
Nike gave snowboarders a big push this year by presenting the high-tech Nike LunarENDOR Quickstrike Boot.
In addition to a flashy logo, powered by 30 blue LEDs, the LunarENDOR comes with special foam-padded soles. Nike developed these while watching footage of astronauts walking on the surface of the moon. They come with Flywire inner lacing and lace locks on the outside to ensure proper fit.
Nike announced the model will be available in mid-December.
Which of these technologies are you most excited about? Please share your opinion in the comment section below!