SESAME: Sensing for Sport and Managed Exercise

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Veterinary College
Department Name: Comparative Biomedical Sciences CBS


The SESAME consortium is a newly-formed multidisciplinary group that proposes to investigate the use of wireless sensor-based systems in enhancing the performance of elite athletes and young athletes who have been identified as having world class potential. The project has goals of enhancing performance, improving coach education, and advancing sports science. Despite a specific focus on athletics, the technical approach and its solutions will be deliberately generic, to enable their subsequent application to a wider range of training and healthcare scenarios. At present, only a limited set of sensing technologies are available for the coaching of elite athletes, including motion capture, fixed force plates and video recording for feedback. However, they often disrupt the sporting activity and the data they return are difficult to interpret to provide appropriate feedback. Wireless sensing technologies, ranging from accelerometry and magnetometry through to accurate positioning systems, have the capacity to revolutionise the field, by providing information about limb positioning and orientation, athlete location, muscular function, and physiological status, all in real time. Through the SESAME project, dynamic data will come from wearable non-intrusive sensors, augmented by passive video capture. Raw sensor data will be processed to extract meaningful information using a combination of sensor fusion and stochastic signal processing to derive information that is meaningful to coaches and athletes. This will take place in the knowledge that human biomechanics constrains movement and will take account of errors introduced by sensor attachment mechanisms and sensor mispositioning. Biomechanical and physiological performance models will be informed by captured sensor data, and from them idealised movements and the performance effects of deviations will be captured. A comprehensive study of human factors is essential if coaches and athletes are to derive real benefit from SESAME. Ethnographic studies will be undertaken with coaches - to build expert domain-specific knowledge, to capture their cognitive models of performance, and to assist in the design of user interfaces. Feedback to coaches and athletes will be in two forms: (i) graphical, both as a data stream that has been processed to respect the coaches' cognitive models and by overlaying sensor data on video; (ii) as real-time feedback if feasible: e.g. using buzzers. Analysis of an athlete's performance is not only a real-time activity: a definitive record of sensor data, decision support recommendations, medical advice and any clinical events will be maintained, allowing users to take account of relevant medical inputs. Such an approach also allows for comparative studies between athletes and the mining of such information both to improve biological performance models and to understand the effect of deviation from the ideal and precursors to injury. The focus of the work will be on running - specifically sprinting. However, given the national importance of the 2012 Olympic Games we will also explore the possibility of using the technology in other athletic disciplines, more general forms of exercise, and rehabilitation following injury. Should time permit, wider applications such as gait analysis for cerebral palsy patients will also be explored. Athletic training is a highly demanding application domain from the viewpoint of wireless sensor networking / it is necessary to develop and integrate novel sensors, QoS-driven real-time networking, and system autoconfiguration, all using an extensible generic software infrastructure. Consequently, solving problems in this challenging domain will provide a necessary building block for the solution of more generic problems in ubiquitous and sentient computing.The SESAME consortium contains a blend of expertise that is essential for progress in deploying technology in this domain.


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Description The project has generated a number of important results which included:
- Development of novel equipment for the measurement of sprint performance and feedback of information about sprinting performance to athletes. As sprinting is often an indoor event, especially during training, standard methods used outdoors such as GPS cannot be applied. We developed a system which made extensive use of light gates, laser range finding and optical motion analysis to track limb movement. This enabled us to develop expertise in methods of accurate localisation using radio ranging which we applied to track athletes in the relatively cluttered environment of the sports stadium. We are now applying and exploring the application of this method in other scientific domains.
- Studies which are still ongoing also explored methods to use audio signals to provide coaching feedback to athletes during a training performance. The basis of the feedback signal was derived from GPS and accelerometer data processed in real time. This has been used to provide feedback to jockeys on riding speed and style at the British Racing School. Further work involved the development of a system to automatically track (via telemetry of GPS data) an individual to collect high speed video data for subsequent analysis.
- Studies were undertaken to increase our understanding of what limits athletic performance (acceleration, top speed, turning/manoeuvring) in humans and other animals. We developed a feedback system to enable repeat measurements of maximum sprint speed in humans on a treadmill. A speed controller worn by the runner regulated the treadmill speed: the treadmill speed exactly matched the athlete's running speed rather than the treadmill running at a fixed or externally determined speed. This enabled us to conduct novel experiments investigating effects of weight and mass on sprint performance. We showed that increased body weight via increased body mass will both result in a slower maximum sprint speed (similar to previous measurements on bend running which only increased body weight). When body inertia alone is increased (by adding mass along with applying an upward force equal to the weight of that mass) athletes are also slowed down. This demonstrates a novel limit to athletic performance that has not previously been identified. Further experiments on polo horses during competition and racehorses during racing showed that turning performance is limited at low speed by the amount of grip the horse has (and hence the bank angle it can use) but at higher speeds the performance appears to be constrained by the forces a leg force/strength limit.
Exploitation Route The project enabled pioneering interactions between sports scientists, engineers and computer scientists. It formed the basis of a strong and continuing collaboration which led into other projects, for instance the EPSRC CARDyAL project where technology developed within SESAME and BBSRC funded projects was further developed to explore the dynamics of cooperative locomotion in a range of terrestrial and aerial species.
Sectors Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism