Electronic coach helps swimmers in the water

Researchers have developed a new system that wirelessly tracks swimmers' movements and uses sensor technology to help them train.
Written by Amy Kraft, Weekend Editor

British swimmers just got a leg up on training thanks to a new device.

Researchers at Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Institute, together with British Swimming, have developed a new system that wirelessly tracks swimmers' movements and uses sensor technology to help them train.

The system produces data on a swimmer’s speed and body movements, which is then transmitted wirelessly through the water to a laptop at the poolside. A coach can then review the detailed information and offer modifications to a swimmer’s technique, a task that is a bit of a challenge.

ScienceDaily reports:

"In the past, during training sessions, coaches have provided feedback to Britain's elite swimmers based on the limited impression they form using their own eyes. Although video footage has been available, it has only been possible to study this for technical information after a session has been completed."

The device is a lightweight box containing sensing technologies that a swimmer fits on the small of the back. Waterproof markers are placed on the swimmer’s hips and arms to better track movements pressure sensors are placed at the end of swimming lanes.

As the swimmer moves, the sensors transmit data to a nearby laptop that interprets the information in a language that is easy to understand. ScienceDaily explains: "The data include, for example, the force of the swimmer's push-off from the blocks, the length of time they remain in the air during their dive, the angle of their body as they enter the water and as they swim, their stroke rate and the length of time they are in contact with the pool wall during a turn -- all of which provides the best possible platform of accurate information equipping the coach to offer the best possible timely feedback."

So far, research shows that the device allows swimmers and trainers to use their time more productively: Minor changes in form that would otherwise go unnoticed are making vast improvements to a swimmer's technique.

And the benefits of such a device might not stop at the swimming pool.

Researchers think that the system has the potential to also be used in healthcare technology, where the movement tracking technology could help doctors assess how well a stroke patient is recovering.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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