Bulls, Mud And Now Microchips

Friday, September 8th 2006, 10:20 am
By: News On 6

Rodeos still has bulls and mud, but now they've also got microchips and gyroscopes. Tulsa's Winnercom has created a new device for its rodeo productions that can calculate how much force a bull is generating during a ride.

As News on 6 reporter Steve Berg explains, that is just the beginning.

Steve Wharton knows better than most how strong bulls are. He used to ride them for a living. But he still couldn't tell you just "how" strong they are. "There has to be a better way than just looking with our eyes, and so I started working at how do I quantify how fast he's moving, how hard he's kicking, how fast he's turning, how fast he's spinning." Wharton came up with a gizmo. "So we glue them right behind the guy on the bull."

It's got one device to measure acceleration and gyros to gauge direction in all 3 dimensions. Now all he needs is the approximate weight of the bull. "From your physics class you would know that force equals mass times acceleration, so if we know how big something is and how fast it moved then we know how much force was applied to it. And the sensor sends us real time data, so this is actual real time."

Winnercom calls it Xpower and has used it in several ESPN telecasts this year, with a graphic that's sort of a bull-o-meter. "To be to quantify how a bull performs is very difficult to the fan. This allows them a tool to help gauge what that performance of that bull really was. You see as you come back and swing, that the actual swing, we're able to graph that."

The possibilities are almost endless. Wharton says you could see the exact path and force of Tiger Woods' golf swing. Or see just how hard that tackler hits the quarterback. "Y'know wow, I just got sacked by Warren Sapp, what does that feel like. Like a 40-mph car crash or something, I don't know. Pretty much anything that moves forward, moves fast, spins, jumps, we can look at quantifying the performance of that."

You maybe wouldn't think rodeo and high-tech go hand in hand. Then again, you might not think a bull-rider would be a math whiz. "Yeah I did okay."