Intel's real-time data comes to X Games Aspen

Intel and ESPN have partnered up for X Games Aspen 2016, bringing with it the most "immersive" X Games experience ever.

When you see Mark McMorris spinning through the air later this month at X Games Aspen 2016, landing triple cork after triple with precision, one might wonder just how much air he got and how smooth was his landing.

A new partnership between X Games and Intel, announced on Tuesday during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, promises to quantify such data in real time in a way never before seen in action sports.

The technology comes to ESPN and X Games Aspen via Intel's new wearable device dubbed "Curie."

Curie is a button-sized, low-powered device made by Intel that can be affixed to whatever moves, whether it's a snowboard, skateboard, BMX bike or even on an athlete. Deep real-time data is sent to a computer that is then instantly transmitted for use by athletes, coaches and even broadcasters. Intel said each Curie will sell for under $10.

"Companies like ESPN and their announcers will get that same data sent in real time," said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich ahead of his CES keynote speech. "So instead of saying, 'Hey, that was a real soft landing' or 'Hey, that looked like about 1,600 degrees,' they can start talking about even more data: 'That was a hard landing. That was 5 G's. You realize that guy just hit the ground with 5 G's of force. That probably didn't feel very good.'

"So whether you're the judge, the spectator, the coach or the athlete, your experience is transformed real-time."

ESPN X Games

Mark McMorris takes a Slopestyle jump with Intel engineer Stephanie Moyerman observing as a disc-shaped device called "Curie" transmits McMorris' data in real time during testing two weeks ago in Aspen.

At X Games Aspen from Jan. 28-31, data from Curie will be used to enhance the broadcasts of Men's Snowboard SlopeStyle and Men's Snowboard Big Air. Announcers will have access to deep data to aid their analysis, and viewers at home and on site will see this data from Curie represented graphically for Big Air and SlopeStyle runs.

"The cool thing, at least from my perspective, is that for a lot of years our challenge was how do we break down tricks and explain tricks?" said Tim Reed, vice president of X Games. "There are a lot of spins and they happen pretty quick, so to actually have a real-time graphic that will break it down will allow the announcers, fans and the audience at home to be able to better understand this stuff that much easier."

With a plethora of fitness trackers and motion-sensing devices already on the market, Krzanich said Curie is set apart from the rest because of the number of accelerometers -- instruments for measuring movement and motion -- and its ability to communicate its data set live. So, Curie can be used on the slopes for immediate feedback for both broadcast and coaching. It also offers a baseline comparison between riders. How high did McMorris go compared to Ståle Sanbech? Intel's Curie is said to provide that data immediately and accurately.

"When you watch the BMX bike rider, [Curie] can take the trick and categorize it real-time. It has the ability to understand the complex set of motions," Krzanich said.

Courtesy of Intel

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich displays Curie's capabilities in BMX during the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco last August.

At CES on Tuesday evening, ESPN president John Skipper explained the partnership as an extension of the continued effort by X Games to add technology to its competitions.

"[X Games has] a long history of [embracing technology]. We had the very first drones in live sports last year. We had the first GoPro camera in live sports a few years ago. And debuting Curie in the X Games will be a fabulous experience for us," Skipper said.

The idea at X Games Aspen is to start using Curie with snowboarding this year and possibly expand it into other sports. Additionally, Intel suggests it can offer this data to judges down the road and help improve or advance contest analysis. That's not in the immediate future, however, as X Games and Intel work to learn how this data is being used by the athletes.

"From a performance perspective, it will be interesting to see what kind of information the [athletes] find valuable in all the different data that is available. Does it help progression long term? What we're going to do long term will be really cool to see," Reed said.

Intel also announced a series of other action-sports related products and partnerships at CES. New Balance will make shoes with Intel technology and 3D-printed midsoles that provides feedback for runners. Oakley has partnered with Intel to produce a voice-activated, real-time coaching system built into eyewear. And Red Bull Media House is joining Intel to add technology designed to expand engagement with action sports content.

CES is the largest computing and technology conference in the world and runs through Friday.

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