It’s a balmy 35 degrees here in Vienna, and as the sun shines mercilessly our elite group of Sports Engineers are currently ingesting the latest research at the 8th ISEA Sports Engineering conference. Thankfully the International centre hosting the conference has characteristically efficient air conditioning, so for now at least the only things overheating are the many minds trying to absorb such a wealth of engineering information.
Over the next four days I’ll be posting an article giving a quick breakdown of pieces of work which impressed us and might be of interest to those of you keeping abreast of technology in sport. So keep coming back for the hot picks!
A collaborative group of researchers in the Netherlands have tried to find a way of measuring swim performance without attaching cumbersome sensors to the swimmer’s body (which they argue are unacceptable for most elite swimmers). In doing so they’ve trialled a camera which can measure a swimmers heart rate by tracking subtle colour changes in the face. Pulses of blood in the skin change the light absorption which produces a measurable trace. Apparently the camera can measure the heart rate after 3-5 seconds of staring in to the lens. I’m not sure how this might disrupt a training session but this is nevertheless amazing technology.
Wind tunnel testing by aerosportsresearch has quantified the percentage difference in drag due to small changes to the position and set-up of a downhill skier. For example, taking off the padded slalom suit and wearing a leaner tighter full downhill suit reduces drag by 4.9%, a massive amount when races are lost and won by hundredths of a second. One interesting example of note is that simply putting on a new suit can shave off enough drag to launch you from an also ran to a top podium position! Apparently the breakdown of an impermeable layer after use makes older suits considerably more draggy (note the technical aerodynamics lingo there).
Researchers at UC Davis University are developing a sensor controlled bicycle robot in order to validate and improve current models looking at the dynamic behaviour of the bicycle. One of the overall aims of the project is to develop a usable model which may eventually improve the dynamics and control of bicycle design. Making a bicycle easier to control could increase bicycle participation around the world (and particularly in the US) may help improve health, reduce congestion and the consumption of fossil fuels.