Cutting edge-technology used on Mars is now reaching a new audience, and in a completely unexpected way.
On September 12, “Wheel of Fortune” will premiere its 40th season and reveal a brand-new version of its iconic puzzleboard, which contestants review to guess phrases that are revealed letter by letter.
The puzzleboard, which hasn’t been updated in nearly two decades, now features the same technology that powers the NASA rovers that explore Mars.
Previously, “Wheel of Fortune” co-host Vanna White manually turned the letter pieces of the board or touched the edges of individual monitors. Now all she has to do is gesture at the screen — and the letters will appear.
Instead of 52 individual monitors, the puzzleboard is now a single LED screen with two sensors to detect movement.
“There’s a laser, and I can run my hand over it,” White demonstrated for ABC News’ Veronica Miracle. “I don’t even have to touch it!”
The show has been on air for more than four decades, and co-hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White took a moment to reflect on the show’s impressive tenure.
“Vanna and I used to sit around after like 10 years and go ‘How long do you think this thing can go on?’” he told ABC News.
“Well, we stopped asking about 20 years ago. It just seems to keep motoring along.”
Part of the show’s enduring success is its commitment to entertaining audiences, and the new puzzleboard will be a part of that.
The board’s new technology will not only improve functionality, but enable producers to “add graphics in a new and fun way,” the show wrote in a press release.
The technology, called “lidar,” has been used in self-driving cars as well as on distant planets. It stands for light detection and ranging, and it uses a network of lasers to measure movement and distance.
It has been used by NASA since the 1970s, but bringing it to the “Wheel of Fortune” audience is completely new.
“I want our viewers to continue to enjoy this classic game while adding a few new and interesting twists,” said the show’s new Executive Producer Bellamie Blackstone in a statement.
“We are all looking forward to this being our biggest season ever!”