A journalist recently asked me about the future of snowboarding; there’s a lot going on with “sticks and planks” as people have come to call them.
- snowboards and skis will continue to gain intelligence. Rapid advances in on-board chip technology, combined witih insight into kinesiology, will see a lot more on-board motion analysis as well as direct links into muscle contraction, with approprirate real-time ride adjustment. Seriously. Both sticks and planks are due to gain quite a bit of on-board tech in the next decade.
- The arrival of on-board tech will produce an industry boost similar to shaped skis a decade ago. On-board integration will make it easier for new boarders to learn to ride; insane boarders to be more insane in jumps and curves.
- De-aging strategies. Board companies will come up a new line for aging Gen-X’ers, who will finally realize that like the boomers before them, their bodies can’t quite take it the same way anymore. We will likely see a unique set of boards that will use on board tech to provide a smoother ride for aging Gen-X’ers — with the result that the first real boarding generation will still be able to do their thing even as they start hitting 45+
- Connectivity everywhere. Every board will soon have it’s own IP address that it will grab from an in-park server. Once it has an Internet address, all kinds of creativity will blossom as we see the integration of software with the board. Smart board companies will adopt the open-source model, allowing anyone to hack cool applications for a board.
- Video everywhere. We will likely see some terrain parks get wired; I do my ride, the park picks up my RFID signal (Radio Frequency Identity Tag), films me with a variety of cams in the park. When I jump into the hot tub later on, I merely swipe my park card, and there’s the video of me in the park, greatness and ugliness all. If I paid the premium fee, the video will have been edited so that only my great jumps are shown.
- Smart-goggles will become part of the scene. They’ll use the same virtual-cockpit helmet-mounted display that the military is using. With a voice command, I’ll be able to pull up an integrated trail map/condition report ; it will be displayed on the thin film of your goggles so that it simply “appears” in the air in front of you.
- Connectivity will provide an opportunity for on-hill marketing. Sticks and planks will link to LCD displays both indoors and outdoors, which will instantly change and evolve to show advertisements related to the boarder/skiier profile.
- Faster innovation. We will see much more rapid marketing-induced change in the basic tech of planks. Advanced Ceramics had a 4 year deal by which HEAD was using it’s carbon tech for skis; but HEAD dropped it after the 4 year term. I suspect they likely found it was a cool marketing hook for a while, but they’re now moving on to the “next big thing” (which for skis is also a degree of intelligence in the ski — see the new Atomic line). I think there will be a lot of innovative products, both chip and non-chip based, but the ski/board companies will use them for a shorter time as marketing becomes more intense
Seriously. I’m not making any of this up; this is just a projection of a variety of trends that surround us.
It might be summer outside, but it’s only a few more months till the season!