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CR4 Olympic Coverage: Wearables Push Athletes to Glory

Posted July 20, 2016 9:01 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: olympics sports training wearables

The clock ticks towards another Olympic games, which means I’m happy to provide some technical or scientific perspective on events and stories from the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. There are so many interfaces between the world’s premier athletics events and the world’s leading technologies.

This year, none is perhaps as distinct as wearable technologies, which are in a much different place now than where they were during the London Olympics. Athletes today can take biomeasuring tools out of the lab and to the field or pool. This AtCrux article details some of the “coolest wearable technologies that athletes are using to enhance their performance,” but today this technology feels more dated than just four years. Nike has redesigned their uniforms for the U.S. track and field team and Speedo has redesigned the swim kits of its team athletes. Ultra-light shoes aren’t anything new. And sensors used to track biomechanics are smaller and more sensitive.

Finding high tech solutions to analyze athlete training is the job of senior sports technologist Mounir Zok, Ph.D., who as he puts it, is “responsible for helping Team USA open a 1% gap with respect to international competition by leveraging emerging technologies.” At the tip-top of the athletic echelon, a 1% edge is a commanding margin, so it is important to be the first to adopt innovative solutions.

Boxing

This year USA boxing is training with the help of Hykso sensors. Two sensors are inserted into a fighter’s hand wraps, one in each glove. The sensors have two three-axis accelerometers and a gyroscope and are paired to a smartphone via Bluetooth. While the consumer version will be out sometime this summer, for now only the professional/commercial version is available. The sensors and software help boxing coaches keep track of punch speed, volume, intensity and timing. It was developed with the help of a former Olympic boxer hopeful, Tommy Duquette, who wondered if better analysis could have made him a better boxer. The video below is of former pro boxer ‘Irish’ Micky Ward testing out a Hykso sensor. (Extra video: Gatti vs. Ward, round 9, anyone?).

Cycling

Heads-up displays (HUDs) hadn’t been scaled down enough to help cyclists before this year’s Olympics. But that’s now possible, thanks to military spin-off technology that has been integrated into a pair of sunglasses, called Solos Smart Eyewear. Solos is wirelessly connected to a smartphone or biosensors. The glasses convey data about cycling speed, distance, elevation, cadence, heart rate and calories. This type of data used to be offered to cyclists by a small bike-mounted computer and display. It’s now possible via a sunglass-integrated HUD that is smaller than a pupil. Solos also includes a microphone and speakers to communicate with teammates and coaches.

Volleyball

Sorry, this is about indoor volleyball, not the beach variety. The U.S. women’s volleyball team is using VERT, a waist-mounted sensor, to track and record the vertical movements of team members. The idea is that each player, especially older ones, have a ‘jump count’. When that player reaches her threshold she is removed from the practice or told to exercise alternatively. This will help prevent leg and back injuries before the real competition begins.

Rowing

Seems like Mounir Zok might’ve missed the boat…err, canoe, on this one. The Brazilian Canoe Federation enlisted General Electric to track and analyze the efficiency of the country’s rowing teams. The canoes will be outfitted with accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers and GPS to track canoe speed, location, direction and frequency and intensity of rowing. Rowers will wear biosensors as well. This data is transmitted in real time to coaches on shore, who can provide analysis and tips to improve subsequent performances.


Ultimately, who wins the gold should be able who put in the effort and perform on game day, right?

This is why athletes are increasingly turning towards new ways to measure and analyze their training. Athletes such as boxers and volleyballers don’t have to rely on biased ‘eye tests’ any longer.

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Re: CR4 Olympic Coverage: Wearables Push Athletes to Glory

07/20/2016 9:23 AM

When it comes to the Olympics. For myself, it lost a lot of value.

I used enjoy it, when the U.S. sent their athletes where were unprofessional to compete. When they did win a medal, it meant something. Just due to some of the eastern country were basically producing athletics through chemistry.

But since they started with 'The Dream Team' in basketball and the like I lost favor.

The Olympics is nothing more that a commercialize propaganda machine the puts a fiscal strain on any country that hosts it even with its commercialization.

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