Monday, November 27, 2006

The world as your monitor

Yes, much of my life has been wasted. Part of that has been spent playing computer games like FreeCell. Far too laborious if done with actual playing cards, it's OK if a computer takes care of the scut work.

Stadium sports have always been designed to use a fixed pattern of marks on the field, whether they be boundaries, yard markers, hash marks, base paths, or whatever else. What kinds of new games might develop if the fields could change dynamically during play?

So have I found a new way to waste time? Maybe not - check out this article in Forbes:
Imagine this: you pull in your driveway after a long day at the office, step out of your car, and suddenly your lawn, yes, your lawn, lights up with a "Welcome Home, Honey!" Or how about this: The military has a runway deep in enemy territory that it wants to keep from getting blown up, so it changes the color of the landing turf to brown to blend in with the surrounding desert. When a plane comes in for a landing, two strips of lights appear. After the plane has landed, with a push of a button the strip reverts to camouflage mode.

Sounds cool, right? This technology will be available soon, making its grand entrance as a National Football League field. Mark Nicholls, the founder and chief executive of Sportexe, the number two maker of artificial turf in the NFL, has patented the process of "tufting" fiber optics with blades of plastic grass. "We will be able to turn the football field into a giant Jumbotron," says Nicholls.

A field can display a huge American flag during the national anthem. At halftime a sponsor such as Budweiser could cover the field with its logo. During the game, that virtual first-down marker you see on your TV could now be on the field itself before the ball is snapped. And because sensors beneath the fibers can sense when any given blade's light is obscured, referees can track the footsteps of a player to determine if he was in-bounds or not. Stadium owners would welcome the technology as well, as it would help them get more use out of the field: A few mouse clicks is all it takes to change the field from a gridiron to a soccer pitch. Compare that to the 2.5-hour, $650 process of cleaning and repainting lines on today's artificial fields.
Hmm. Maybe one day we'll be able to, say, sell our roofs to an advertiser, who would assume permanent maintenance responsibilities in return for a billboard he could control from half a world away. Billboards could become big TV monitors. Highways could restripe. Large objects could change color instantly - they could even become invisible. Sheesh, you could redecorate the house ten times a day.

I really need to get some work done.

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