Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Introducing a 'black box' for snowboarders

These devices record a variety of information to help quantify athletic performances.
These devices record a variety of information to help quantify athletic performances.
  • Motion sensors capture an athlete's every twist and turn
  • Computer animated replay and Google Earth paths included in software
  • U.S. Olympic bobsledding team used black boxes for training

( -- An airplane's flight data recorder, or black box, saves input from many sensors so that pilots can reconstruct and analyze a trip after the fact, whether to find problems or certify that they completed a record-setting route.

Now extreme-sports athletes can quantify a wicked ride the same way.

Two new gadgets each pack a heap of sensors -- GPS to measure direction and speed, accelerometers to measure tilt and pitch, gyroscopes to measure rotation -- that record data throughout a snowboard, wakeboard or other sports session.

Afterward, software replays the moves on a computer, complete with animated gear. It can also export the files to Google Earth to show paths drawn into actual landscapes.

Coaches can use the devices to study and improve technique. Athletes can do something even more satisfying -- prove their gravity-defying stunts to pals. Head-Up Display Brings Ski Goggles Into the Future

The waterproof ShadowBox was created for wakeboarders, who can use it to judge whether they truly nailed a 720 McTwist. But now users can mount it to almost any equipment, from skateboards to bikes, and it adjusts its measurements and onscreen animations to suit the selected sport.

For instance, a barometric pressure sensor kicks in to gauge elevation in hang gliding, and a compass logs precise snowboard orientation. Robot Skier Kills the Bunny Hills, Not Ready For Black Diamond

The U.S. bobsledding team used a version of the Ripxx to train for the Olympics.

The consumer model, worn on the body, focuses on more-traditional winter activities.

It comes with detailed maps of popular ski and snowboard resorts, so when wearers download data from a run, it draws their avatar into an exact replica of a trail, letting them pinpoint with unprecedented accuracy why a jump failed or succeeded.

Copyright © 2009 Popular Science

Part of complete coverage on
Games' legacy: Canadian resiliency
With the Winter Games set to close Sunday night, you can almost hear the Canadian officials saying, "We told you everything would work out."
Ten things that went wrong
Even before competition began, the Games faced criticism over weather and a fatal crash. The accidents, mistakes and embarrassments kept coming.
Quitting the Games
Tom de la Hunty took Dutch bobsledder Edwin van Calker to the track one last time Tuesday and asked his driver if he could do it.
SI: Schedule and results
Get the latest results from the Games and check out the schedule to see when your favorite sport will be played
Medals and athletes
More than 2,600 athletes from 82 countries are expected to participate in the Games. See which countries are winning medals and how many athletes they sent to Vancouver.
Send us your Olympic stories
Send us your videos and photos of Olympic excitement from around the world, and let us know how you are following the action.