New technology for sports analytics

Posted Oct 1, 2017 by Tim Sandle
Motion tracking is being used more often across a range of different sports and the technology is advancing. One area is with biomechanical movement analysis, which is being taken up as a new training resource.
AFP journalist Helen Percival (L) wears a motion capture suit in a special effects studio at Framest...
AFP journalist Helen Percival (L) wears a motion capture suit in a special effects studio at Framestore in Soho, central London, on January 31, 2104
Adrian Dennis, AFP
and movies. However, it also has an application in the sports world and the physical therapy sector. With sport, for example, athletes can be fitted with inertial trackers. Through these devices an athlete’s movements can be recorded and data captured to the most miniscule detail. Recent advances mean there is no data loss, no matter what type of physical exertion the athlete endures.
The resulting motion data can be used by sports data scientists to learn different things about the way a person moves and react to physical exertion. This data can then be used as part of training regimes in order to seek improvements in performance for professional athletes. In addition, the data can be used to prevent potential injuries. With sports broadcasters, the data can also be used to provide real-time statistics in relation to a sporting event, to augment the viewing experience for the sports fan.
The common weakness with applying most types of motion capture technology to sports is interference from nearby objects, especially from metals. Metals can cause magnetic interference. To overcome this, a new development, from the company Xsens, looks set to overcome this interference and provide a ‘motion capture anywhere’ solution that is not affected by magnetic distortion (the way this is achieved has not been disclosed by the company). Development of the technology continues with academia, including Virginia Tech, UCSF, EIS and the University of Calgary.
The new devices, the Xsens MVN suits, are self-contained allowing all of the data to be captured within a portable on-body pack. The battery life of the new suits is 12 hours. One innovation includes the addition of ultra-small trackers can detect rolls and other stunts.
Tests have also shown the technology operates satisfactorily in extreme environments during intense activity, such as tracking people skydiving or mountain biking. The Xsens technology has been supplied, for biomechanical analysis, to the Royal Dutch field hockey organization. Other applications include rendering 3D analysis of the full ‘MeasuRun’ marathon and on-body recording for Motocross bikes on the track at high speed.
Outside of the sports world, such technology is being adopted by medical laboratories, rehabilitation facilities and for heavy industry ergonomic analysis. For workplaces the technology can lead to better ways of working with a view to lowering the rate of industrial injuries.