As nearly 100,000 fans stream into Cowboy Stadium and millions more tune in to watch the Packers and the Steelers square off from home, few will be thinking about the real star of the show – the amazing technology that produces images so refined that viewers can see beads of sweat on the foreheads of their gridiron heroes.
Super Bowl XVL promises to be a match heralded by technology more advanced than ever before. From helmet cams that take you live on the front lines to phone apps designed to help you find everything from a water fountain to a chili dog, Cowboy Stadium is wired and ready for kickoff. Newly designed with high-tech communications as a top priority, the stadium boasts the most sophisticated scoreboard ever manufactured, 3,000 HDTV screens inside the stadium, so fans can follow the action from any angle, and a data control center that rivals that of a television network.
The enormous 72 ft X 160 ft Mitsubishi high-def screen dominating the air space over the field has been nicknamed the Jerry-Tron, in honor of the Dallas Cowboys’ forward-thinking owner Jerry Jones. Containing 90 million super bright LED lights, the Jerry-Tron is the world’s largest HDTV. The 600-ton marvel takes two separate crews to broadcast live video angles to be sure that, no matter what side of the stadium you’re seated on, the players are running in the right direction onscreen. It could get downright confusing otherwise.
Since there is no way to predict which carriers fans are most likely to subscribe to, the stadium, and the wireless companies, had to prepare for anything. AT&T has the lion’s share of Dallas area business, with Verizon in the next highest share position, but the same might not be said of fans coming in from Wisconsin and Pittsburgh.
The stadium is offering free Wi-Fi for the big game. One of the main concerns when designing the new venue was a Wi-Fi network to rival a small city. During the game, a small army of technicians will be monitoring the network to make sure the infrastructure can handle the demand as thousands of fans send videos, photos, tweets, updates, and emails at once.
There’s an App for That?
The next big thing in store for Cowboys fans is to harness the hundreds of Wi-Fi access points to send location-based offers during events. Fans will be enticed to buy beverages, food, or apparel via special announcements during the event. There’s even a plan for expedited food service. Fans will be able to order and pay from their seats and nip out to the nearest kiosk to pick up their order with no wait. Alas, this time saver won’t be ready for the big game, but it’s not far in the future. The technology for these location-based apps is so sophisticated that the Cowboys organization has applied for a patent to control the distribution rights.
In addition to the technology inside the stadium, there’s a wide range of high-tech devices designed to bring the inside of the stadium out to the armchair fans at home. Consider the markings that overlay the field to identify plays. While this may seem like no big deal, pinpointing accurate lines requires hours of preparation, laser surveying to map field elevations and contours, and constant adjustment to account for the movement of the players and the changes in tilt, zoom, and camera angle. On the field, HD cameras are equipped to transmit precise data back to the processing center so that lines and graphics can be displayed with the proper angle and tilt.
While the cameras on the sidelines capture every flick of the wrist, overhead, a camera system suspended over the field gives an in-depth look from almost any angle, providing views never seen before except in video gaming. Camera operators control, zoom, and pan the camera anywhere on the field using a joystick similar to a game controller so that sportscasters can call up every possible view during the game. To achieve smooth high-speed motion, special RTLinux software updates the camera position 200 times every second. The camera system is so accurate it can follow the ball from the snap to the touchdown without missing a single moment of action. In some ways, viewing from home will be more detailed than watching the game live, but is there really any substitute for the roar of a live Super Bowl event?
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and the amount of technology use to capture the big game and keep fans entertained has never been bigger at a sporting event. Whether you’re experiencing the game in person or at home in front of your HDTV, the technology behind game has helped bring the big game to a whole new level.