Decoding Design

Omega gives the classic starter pistol a world-class makeover

Posting in Technology

Omega, timing sponsor for London 2012, has revamped the starter pistol to make starting races as fair as possible.

As the Olympics wind down, it's time that we all take a look back. It's been an Olympiad of firsts-- a double amputee and a Saudi Arabian woman ran around the track for the first time in Olympic history-- and an Olympiad of firsts due to the rapid advancement of technology and advent social media since the last Summer Games. One long-overlooked bit of tech got a good redesign as part of this advancement, to the benefit of runners everywhere.

Omega, the Swiss luxury watch brand and timing sponsor for London 2012, decided to revamp the starter pistol, or the gun that alerts runners that a race has begun. Before this redesign, the runner closest to the pistol had a slight advantage over runner on the furthest lane.

The new electronic pistol makes no noise at all, but is connected to a speaker behind each runner, evening a playing field where every millisecond counts.  Before they tried the model that they ended up using, Omega tried out a old fashioned pistol (pictured up top) to speakers, but it didn't work. Runners proved to be too hard-wired to the old way to respond to the speaker-borne sound of the old gun a fraction of a second early.

The new gun, while also sporting a cool new look, only sounds through the speakers. Problem solved.

Ok, so the new gun isn't brand new, it was used tested in Vancouver in 2010, but as of this summer it has become the starter pistol standard. Who says technology is only good for crossing the finish line? (It's obviously not only good for that, but I thought of it specifically because I love the still shots used of runners crossing the finish line, their distorted bodies in motion look almost fake, but also highlight the amazing capabilities of the human body.)

Hat tip: Core 77
Images: Omega

Beth Carter

Contributing Editor

Beth Carter is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has worked for Catalyst magazine, the New York Times Syndicate, BBC Travel and Wired. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure