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BMW unveils wheelchair racing prototype for U.S. Paralympics team

Team USA took over Times Square yesterday with the kickoff of its 100 Day Countdown campaign celebrating the “Road to Rio.” Athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams will compete in Rio de Janiero against the rest of the world in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

While yesterday’s warm weather certainly helped pack the tiny space in the middle of Times Square, a zip line and a Wheel of Fortune with free prizes certainly enticed a lot of people as well. On hand were also members of the U.S. Olympic team, who themselves participated in these activities. But Team USA wasn’t shy about employing tech.

Samsung unveiled a new virtual reality video, which will at some point be uploaded to its Milk VR platform along with the rest of its large category of 360-immersive videos. This video, shown through the Gear VR, featured the perspective of a mountain biker participating in a tight race. And as if that wasn’t enough of an adrenaline rush, Samsung added hydraulic chairs in order to offer the full, bumpy effect of what it’s like being a mountain biker.

The U.S. Olympic Committee also offered a VR experience, which put you right in the Games, and included the experience of spiking a volleyball, diving off a 10-meter platform, or pole vaulting over the high bar.

BMW separately showcased its first Racing Wheelchair prototype for the Paralympic Games, which focuses on chassis stiffness, aerodynamics, and athlete fit. It’s made of carbon fiber, which helps improve the form of the chair.

“Because they’re putting so much energy into the chairs, they don’t want to be shifting around or slipping, because that’s taking out the precision with which they have to hit the wheels,” Brad Cracchiola, associate director at BMW Group Designworks, told Digital Trends. “If they miss, that could cost them a race. We took inspiration from auto racing and we actually do custom molds for every individual athlete.”

The hard gloves used to push the wheels have also been custom made, after undergoing a lot of feedback between the design team and the athletes. and they’re now made of a specific material that doesn’t melt in hot temperatures.

“Even though they’re getting a crash course in wheelchair racing, they caught on extremely fast,” Chelsea McClammer, a member of the U.S. Paralympic team, told Digital Trends. “It’s lighter, it’s way more aerodynamic, more streamlined, and more customized, which is really important.”

Nintendo also had a presence at the tour, demoing Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which is already out for the 3DS, but will be released on the Wii U in June.

In case you want to catch up with them, Team USA will stop at Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Los Angeles before heading out to Rio de Janiero for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

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