Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

You Say Potato, I Say Wi-Fi

Boeing has found an interesting way to avoid dealing with unruly Words With Friends players while it’s testing advanced in-flight Wi-Fi systems on commercial planes.

Boeing Potatoes

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago-based company said Wednesday that it has enlisted the help of about 20,000 pounds of potatoes, with the sacks of starch being used as stand-ins for passengers while the company tests onboard Wi-Fi.

The purpose of the testing, which is conducted at the company’s laboratories in Seattle, is to gauge wireless signal strength while ensuring that it won’t disrupt navigation and communication tech inside the aircraft. Wires for these systems run all along the ceiling and side panels of the interior of the plane, and Boeing says it has to determine the strongest signal the plane can handle while, say, 300 laptops are being used during a flight. (In case you’ve missed the debate on gadget use during takeoff and landing, here’s the latest on that issue.)

The potato-testing — in addition to helping Boeing get to the root of any Wi-Fi issues — is also said to shorten testing times, and will save the company a few bucks, since it didn’t have to hire human passengers.

In this four-minute video from Boeing, the narrator explains that the “vegetables’ interactions with the radio wave signals mimic those of the human body.” (And you thought all that time at the gym made you less of a couch potato!)

It’s unclear whether the potatoes are red, Russet, Yukon Gold, yams or baking potatoes, but based on my hours of watching Food Network I’d say they’re red potatoes. Just in case you’re wondering.

(Spud Lightyear image courtesy of this Web site)


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus