Not Everyone Loves Change to Wheel of Fortune Puzzleboard

Thanks to NASA tech, Vanna doesn't even need to touch letters now; some say board looks 'cheap'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2022 10:45 AM CDT

If you tuned in to the first episode of the 40th season of Wheel of Fortune that aired Monday, you may have noticed a subtle change in the puzzleboard. In the early days of the game show, as host Pat Sajak would interact with the contestants, co-host Vanna White would manually turn the letters on the board as they were correctly guessed. Then, about 20 years ago, touchscreen technology came into play, allowing White to simply place her hand on each square. Now, instead of 52 individual monitors, the board is a single flat LED screen that uses motion detectors, reports ABC News. The LIDAR (Light, Imaging, Detecting, and Ranging) laser technology, which allows White to simply "[break] the plane" in front of each letter, has been used in self-driving cars and by NASA in its Mars rover, per a release.

"I want our viewers to continue to enjoy this classic game while adding a few new and interesting twists," says Bellamie Blackstone, the show's new executive producer. In what might be the Zapruder film of game show tech, video of the season premiere is being analyzed closely by fans to see if White is actually touching the letters (which she may be doing, out of habit) or simply sweeping her hands magically in front of the squares. In an interview last week with Good Morning America, however, White brought the viewing audience up closer to demonstrate that her hand doesn't need contact to activate the board. "I don't even have to touch it!" she marveled after accidentally "turning over" a letter while explaining the board to GMA.

Either way, not everyone is sure they're loving the new setup, per the New York Post. "Am I alone in thinking it looks ... cheap?" one person wrote on Twitter, apologizing for a "petty" take. "It just feels a bit odd and cold." Someone else noted the board looked "like a photo op backdrop." Yet another detractor took issue with the font. Other fans, however, took a more nuanced view. "Part meh, but also part I appreciate doing something different," one commenter noted. (Read more Wheel of Fortune stories.)

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