Modern Curling Stones Outfitted With Sensors for Hog Line Violations
Curling: The one Olympic sport nobody really understands. At one point or another, we’ve all asked why those people were pushing brooms frantically in front of a giant hockey puck. Are they clean freaks trying to remove debris out of the puck's way or trying to create a static field for improved glide? Neither: The brooms are used to influence the “curling stone's” (or rock's) glide path to the target area (or house). Players score a point by getting their stone the closest they can to the center of the house.
As you could imagine, there is much debate regarding “hog line” violations, which is where players still have their hand on the stone after it has passed the mandated release point. In past years, this was monitored by officials but has since been upgraded with sensors in both the “eye of the hog” (or handle) and the hog line embedded in the ice. Red and green LEDs in the handle denote if there has been any violation. If the stone flashes red in violation it is removed from the ice and is out of play. These stones don’t come cheap: The ones featured in this year’s Olympics are solid granite milled by Kays of Scotland, with each handle alone costing $650.
The brushes have also undergone a change from those used back in the 1950s, which were made out of corn strands like those found in typical household brooms. These too have ridiculous names as well, including the “Blackjack” (for those made from corn) and “Rinkrat” for those made of artificial material. The ones in use today feature either a carbon fiber or fiberglass shaft and either fabric, hog hair, or horse hair brush. Yes, stray hairs have been blamed for losing matches, which was proclaimed recently at this year’s Olympic match between the UK and Canada women’s teams (UK lost).