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Intel plans to measure competitive snowboarders like never before as they plunge down runs and perform tricks in the skies at ESPN’s 2016 Winter X Games this week. The marriage of real-time analytics and sports is a first for the extreme sports competition, and it is part of Intel’s strategic effort to use technology to transform sports for spectators, coaches, and athletes alike.

Starting tomorrow, Intel will show off the analytics it can extract from Curie-based sensors that are attached to the snowboards of competitors on the Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle and Men’s Snowboard Big Air events in Aspen, Colorado. The event starts tomorrow.

The Curie modules will wirelessly broadcast the data on motion, acceleration, and location in real time over wireless networks to nearby computers. That data will be passed on to ESPN’s commentators, who can look at the data on athletes as they perform and then bring it to life for the audience. The spectators will instantly know how high athletes fly off the half pipe, how fast they move, how hard they land, and even the exact degree of rotation.

Snowboarder Mark McMorris has an Intel Curie module on his board.

Above: Snowboarder Mark McMorris has an Intel Curie module on his board.

Image Credit: ESPN X Games

“We’re focusing on the experience we can create with our technology,” said Steve Holmes, vice president of smart device innovation at Intel, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We think we can really change the way people experience sports and athletics.”

Intel says that the integration of technology and sports is in its infancy. In the future, both star athletes and normal folks will be able to watch, measure, train, coach, and analyze using precision measurements that can capture the athlete’s personal performance. And fans can be more deeply immersed in the action. This message is consistent with recent keynote speeches given by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Intel’s newly announced ad campaign focusing on what its technology can do. Intel is the world’s biggest chip maker, but it is now focusing on marketing what the technology can do for people in their everyday lives.

The snowboarders will attach a little box on top of their snowboards. It will have an Intel Curie module with GPS, accelerometers, and other sensors. Intel has a big crew of engineers at the event and a significant branding presence as well.

“The amount of computing power that someone can carry on their body is much more than a decade ago,” Holmes said. “The information we collect is much more significant. And we recognize that it’s not just the athlete that benefits. It’s the fans and the audience. The real-time performance can enhance a sports experience like the X Games.”

Holmes said that traditional sports are very well understood and measured today. But action sports haven’t had the same kind of awareness about how wearables can transform the experience.

“It’s a peek inside a world that hasn’t been explored much in the past,” Holmes said. “It opens up a sport that is already amazing to watch. Holmes expects the tech to filter down to our everyday lives as well.

Intel is also going to show off its technology at the Grammy Awards and Red Bull Media House events.



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