CAMERA at Bath Digital Festival – Sports Focus

CAMERA CAMERA at Bath Digital Festival – Sports Focus

Day One of Bath Digital Festival was a brilliant way to kick off (pun intended) what is warming up to be a bumper summer of sports (science).

From rugby to sprinting, tennis and badminton, and skeleton bobsledding, festival goers were able to interact with our research and the technology we’re developing. They experienced first-hand how we’re working with athletes to quantify and enhance performance and make sports safer for all.

Pose Estimation – How the computer sees you

On entering the warehouse space at Newark Works, attendees came face to face – or joint to joint –  with a stick image of themselves superimposed over live video footage. The Media Pipe open capture system quickly and entertainingly used AI to estimate the position of a person’s joints in real-time as they walked, stood, squatted and waved at themselves.

The accuracy of the system is significantly lower than the pose estimation systems we’re developing at the university – but the payoff is that it incurs lower processing time and gives instantaneous biofeedback.

It also made for a quick and fun way to see how computer vision can map parts of the body based on image data without the need for markers. It showed how 2D images can be captured and transformed into 3D data.

Rugby Scrum Machine – Crouch, Bind, Set!

One of our most popular attractions was the instrumented rugby scrum machine. We had large numbers of visitors pitting their strength against the machine, following the scrummage commands to “Crouch! Bind! Set!”

Throwing their weight through their shoulders and into the scrum machine pads, our systems were then able to measure the force of each person’s initial impact and sustained force in the rugby scrum. Information was gathered at a ‘team’ and individual level with measurements taken on three planes – horizontal, vertical and side to side.

How the computer ‘feels’ you

The main force of interest was the horizontal push. Visualising performance certainly brought out the competitiveness either between people or personally, with many visitors wanting to have another go or asking Dr Dario Cazzola how their force compared to that of a professional rugby pack.

But this rugby scrum machine has an even bigger story to tell. Through the analysis conducted by Dario and the team within the Department of Health at the university it was identified that 40% of often life altering injuries within the sport occurred in the rugby scrum. Working in partnership with the international governing body, World Rugby, the research showed a 25% reduction in scrum forces by a simple change in the technique. This work contributed to making rugby safer for over 9 million players across the world by reducing the collapse of the scrum.

ForceTeck – Commercial innovation spinout

The instrumented scrum machine isn’t the end of the spinal loading story however, whilst the instrument scrum machine uses embedded strain gauges to measure forces, the research has led CAMERA academic Dr Dario Cazzola to set up spin out company ForceTeck.

Startup ForceTeck uses physics-based machine learning to calculate the collision and joint forces experienced by athletes only from video footage. This technology is being applied across multiple sports for return-to-play and game readiness analyses as well as performance simulation.

Making lab grade technology accessible in the field

Using two iPhones and OpenCap open-source software developed by Stanford University, visitors were invited to jump on the Vald Performance, Force plates and have their performance recorded and analysed. Force Decks are instrumented plates that automatically detect and assess movements from squats to jumps, measuring the ground reaction force (GRF) – e.g. the force exerted by the ground on a body in contact with it. Whilst OpenCap allows for the understanding of the motion that created the force.

Using Force Decks and the OpenCap system in this way we can create a mobile, user-friendly way to show jump heights in centimetres, peak force in newtons and peak force relative to body weight. We were able to compare individuals against one another and, due to the synchronisation of the force

plates and the open capture data, we were able to understand how these forces act on the musculoskeletal system like in the lab using our syntonised and integrated systems.

Portable and novel capture devices allow for data ordinarily recorded in the lab to become accessible to a broader range of individuals and teams who wouldn’t necessarily have access to expensive testing facilities. A reduction in cost to test allows for higher frequency performance monitoring and testing enabling better detection of performance trends.

Attendees were able to compare their jump scores against other attendees and normative data of professional rugby and football players.  

The buzz in our demo hall at Newark Works was deliciously contagious – we loved having the opportunity to bring our research out of the lab and share knowledge and information with festival goers just as much as people enjoyed exploring innovative and practical ways of engaging with their bodies.

More to follow on our Day 2 Cities experience of BDF…

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