While Jeopardy! has some big changes in store for Season 39, its sister game show in syndication Wheel of Fortune apparently has a huge change on the horizon as well. Namely, what Vanna White will be revealing puzzles on once the new season kicks off.
The puzzle board has seen a number of upgrades over the years: it’s been a while since White has had to physically spin pieces of the board to reveal a puzzle, for example. But this upgrade seems to be the fanciest yet.
According to BuzzerBlog’s Corey Anotado, on a recent visit to the Sony Pictures Studios the show’s signature puzzle board was apparently missing.
A few weeks ago, I was in Los Angeles on vacation and took the Sony Pictures Studios tour. I noticed something peculiar when they showed off the Wheel of Fortune set: the puzzle board wasn’t there. The set is basically permanent, and the wheel and the puzzle board rarely get put into storage. Other tour groups who went after me noted the puzzle board back in action, with one significant difference: instead of being made up of multiple individual monitors, the puzzle board looked like one massive LED display.
Anotado unearthed an interview that Bill Monk, the show’s head of electronics, recently gave that had some details about a new puzzle board for the show as well. And the tech involved seems pretty intense: rather than multiple screens, the single video board will use lidar (light detection and ranging) to determine where someone presses on the screen and which letters to reveal as a result.
In this interview, which was recorded in December 2021, Monk talks about then-future plans for the puzzle board: “It’ll be a beam of light, if we change it out, where they put their finger through, we’ll know where the XY coordinates, so we’ll know to trigger that box.” Between this interview and audience reports, we can surmise that the puzzle board will use an array of lasers to determine where Vanna/Maggie Sajak in 3 years probably, presses on the board.
It’s not nearly as big a deal as removing the physical letters altogether, but it certainly means a new look for the show in the upcoming season.
The major change to the show’s puzzle board came in 1997, when the turnable pieces were decommissioned and swapped out for a collection of TV monitors that would be touched to illuminate the puzzle. That came with much fanfare, of course, probably more than an upgrade to laser technology will get whenever we see it in action. According to Anotado, we’re likely to get more information about the new tech as the upcoming season gets closer to air. We should see new episodes of the show starting in early September so, fingers crossed.