The smart suit that brings big data to sport

I’ve written numerous times about the growing number of sporting wearables that both capture rich data about your performances, but also then layer AI on top of that to provide you feedback and advice to help you improve.

A nice example of the way things are going comes via Carnegie Mellon researcher Pei Zhang, who has developed vibration sensors that can be fitted inside a body suit.  It’s a system that Zhang refers to as the Muscle Activity Recognition System (MARS), and you can see it in action via the image below.

The system utilizes real-time motion capture and visualization tools to operate effectively in any lighting.  The microsensors sewn into the suit allow for the smallest movements to be captured and measured.

“Using this body sensor suit to measure the fine grain vibrations of your body,” Zhang says, “we can find out which muscle you are activating, how hard you are activating these particular muscles, and how tired these muscles are.”

The suit contains 18 different sensor nodes, including accelerometers, gyroscope and magnetometers.  These allow the suit to map out the activation of the wearer’s muscle groups, with the activity output via a digital avatar.  Muscles are highlighted in green whenever they’re activated, but turn orange as they fatigue, before turning red when extremely fatigued.

It’s a level of data the team believe has never before been available to athletes, or their coaches, and therefore opens up a range of new possibilities.  The ability to monitor fatigue in real time will give athletes the ability to correct their technique and postures there and then, thus hopefully both improving performance whilst also reducing the risk of injury.

“This technology can enable both professional and amateur athletes to accurately track the extent of their exercise,” says Zhang, “in order to push themselves to their limits, but not over.”

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