AT HOME / TOTAL TV
Multiscreen viewing has become the norm for sports fans: Watch the game on TV while chatting with friends and foes on a phone or a tablet. For the World Cup, Sony is melding all those screens into one. Three of the company's newest models (the XBR X950B and XBR X900B Series 4K Ultra HD TVs and the Bravia W950B Series LED HD TV, all available this spring) have a feature called social viewing. When the feature is turned on, tweets organized by keyword or hashtag scroll across the bottom of the screen. At the same time, a pop-up window to one side allows for real-time video chatting via Skype, so fans on different parts of the globe can watch the game as if they're in the same room. There's also football mode, which digitally alters the audio to reduce the volume of the commentators and enhance the ambient sound, better approximating the feeling of being at the game—less blabbing, more chanting. (Both features function during any broadcast.)
The two Series 4K models are capable of reproducing the latest upgrade in high-definition viewing. With four times the resolution of the current 1080P standard, 4K broadcasts provide previously unseen levels of clarity. They bring the tiniest details to life and, more important with fast-moving sports such as soccer and auto racing, allow for smoother, less blurry camera pans. To take full advantage of this technology, Sony will be filming the World Cup in 4K, after successfully testing it at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil last June. Unfortunately, FIFA and the U.S. TV rights holder, ESPN, have yet to announce a deal for the 4K broadcast rights, so American fans may never see it. Good thing those TVs don't have an incite riot mode.
AT THE GAMES / SAFETY MONITOR
iRobot is cleaning up Brazil. The Boston-based technology company, best known for its Roomba vacuum cleaner, is supplying 30 of its military-grade PackBots to the Brazilian government for the 2014 World Cup. The portable robots, which fold up into a backpack, use a thermal surveillance system to locate those attempting to elude detection; screen for explosives and suspicious-looking objects; neutralize and dispose of bombs; climb stairs; and trek through rocks, mud and water at 9 mph. A GPS and an onboard camera allow operators to navigate remotely and monitor large areas from a central location. The well-intentioned robots will be stationed in all 12 cities that are hosting World Cup games and will surely be invited back for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.