At halftime of the Super Bowl, with the Falcons up 21-3 over the Patriots, I have a feeling New England’s head coach went into the locker room, looked into a mirror and knew the game was far from over as he blurted, “I’m Bill Bellichik, bitch!”
Meanwhile, Lady Gaga was starting her halftime show with an impressive opening that included 300 Intel drones lighting the sky behind her and converging to make a red-white-and-blue flag, too. Wired’s Brian Barrett explains how they pulled it off:
Each drone communicates wirelessly with a central computer to execute its dance routine, oblivious to what the hundreds of machines around it are doing. The system can adapt on the, er, fly, too. Just before showtime, the computer checks the battery level and GPS signal strength of each drone, and assigns roles accordingly. Should a drone falter during the show, a reserve unit takes over within seconds.
All of which is pretty cool in its own right. But making it work for the biggest television event of the year takes a whole different level of planning.
Students of Super Bowl security measures and FAA regulations may by this point have some questions. The government strictly forbids drones within 34.5 miles of Houston’s NRG Stadium, after all, and the FAA limits on how high drones can fly in any circumstance, let alone above 80,000 or so people. How on earth did Intel get away with it?
The short answer is, it taped the show earlier this week.
When I got to the end, and read about other uses for synchronized programmable drones, I couldn’t help but think of the final episode of season 3 of “Black Mirror” (streaming now on Netflix). I won’t spoil anything about it other than to say devices like Intel’s drones play a key role in the plot, which doesn’t turn out the way you might think it will based on the beginning of the episode.
By the way, am I the only one who noticed that while the Falcons were romping through the first half, the commercials were very unimpressive — what a waste, at $5 million each — but as the Patriots started their remarkable comeback, the spots got better? I liked the Mercedes spot with Peter Fonda, the Honda yearbooks ad, the Audi gender gap commercial, and especially the 84 Lumber commercial about the Mexican mother and daughter trying to cross over the border into America. That last one was truncated by Fox, which refused to air its finale, so the commercial referred viewers to a website to see its finale — and so many of us did, that the demand crashed the site almost immediately.
If you haven’t seen the whole thing, here it is: