The 2018 Winter Olympics, opening February 9 in PyeongChang, South Korea, promise to showcase the latest in wearable winter sport technology. We’re talking heated parkas, body airbags, sensor-packed skate suits and more. Here is some of the most innovative equipment you’ll see on the slopes and ice next month.
Heated Opening Ceremony Jackets
At the February 9 opening ceremony, Team USA will be wearing Ralph Lauren outfits that are sporty, patriotic and toasty warm, thanks to embedded heating elements. The interior of the team’s parka will have an American flag, made with electronic-printed heating inks. The athletes can program the heaters to run on three different settings using their cell phones and turn them on via a button large enough to push while wearing gloves. The battery-powered heat can last up to 11 hours. If only the rest of us had had this during the bomb cyclone.
Smart Sensor Training Suits
Though for training, not competition, these custom Samsung SmartSuits claim to give their wearers the edge. Two Dutch short track skaters trained in the suits, which are embedded with five sensors to track body movement and relay the information directly to the coach’s phone. An app analyzes the data and makes suggestions for adjustments, which can be transmitted back to the skater via a system of vibrations.
NASA-Inspired Snowboarding Outfits
The U.S. snowboarding team will be 1960s cool in suits inspired by the glory days of space exploration. The jackets and pants are made with aluminum-coated fabric normally used for audio equipment that deflects light and sound, helpful for competing on sunny days. In a nod to international harmony, the inside of the jackets are sewn with simple phrases, like “do you speak English?” and "Wish me luck!," in Korean. That’s one small halfpipe for man…
Gritty Skating Suits
The speed demons on the U.S. speedskating team may be even faster this Olympics thanks to new suits designed by Under Armour. The spandex of the suits has a slightly gritty texture, which designers claim makes them more aerodynamic by breaking the vacuum that can form around skaters’ arms and legs. Under Armour hopes the new outfits will redeem them from the infamous Mach 39, their 2014 skate suit with a vent in the back that some skaters blamed for poor performance.
Blue is the Fastest Color?
In a decision that has more to do with color psychology than physics, the Norwegian speedskating team has abandoned their traditional red in favor of blue, claiming that blue is the fastest color. Scientists aren’t so sure. “I cannot possibly imagine how dying the same fabric with two dyes that have the same properties to different hues would generate differing aerodynamic responses,” Renzo Shamey, a professor of color science and technology at North Carolina State University, told the New York Times. But there’s evidence that superstitions, like not washing your socks before a big game, can impact performance.
Camouflage for Moguls
Columbia Sportswear’s uniforms for the U.S. ski team are designed for performance, free movement and…disguise? The fabric of the moguls skiers uniforms features a “snow camouflage” pattern, which can potentially help mask wobbly knee movements, a no-no when speeding down the bumpy course.
Hammerhead Helmets and Personal Airbags
With Olympic skiers hurtling downhill at more than 80 miles an hour, a crash can easily be a catastrophe. That’s why some members of the U.S. downhill skiing team will wear Giro custom multi-directional impact protection helmets with a ball-and-socket design to reduce rotational impact and a “hammerhead” shape that adds bulk to the sides of the head, the area most likely to hit a gate during slalom. Many skiers from different countries will also be wearing Dainese airbag vests with sensors to detect when a wearer is getting out of control, inflating in milliseconds.