Unfortunately as I spent so much time preparing for my presentation yesterday (time mostly spent pacing around with nervous tension) I’ve decided to cheat a little and combine the last two days of the conference.
I’m going to focus on the great work being done by some big sports companies who have presented at the conference.
Thursday’s keynote was from Mario Lafortune at Nike. He described a little bit about the amazing testing facilities they have and the work they do in identifying appropriate test participants for appropriate products. This has led to products specifically designed for specific user groups. For example, young children playing football don’t exert nearly as much force when playing and are also at an important stage of their live developmentally. Nike have designed boots which have fewer studs and more room for growth. This has led to lower stud pressures (reducing the chance of injury/discomfort) and boots that will last longer before they’re too small. Another example was that of male and female basketball players. By monitoring the behaviour of the player’s they Nike concluded that women play the game differently to men and therefore have different requirements with regards to footwear. It was interesting to note that this is a sensitive subject as there is a danger of pushing customers away from the brand if they think that the ‘different’ female product is a compromise when compared to the males. A difficult balance.
Today’s keynote was given by Johan Kotze of Head tennis. It took a look at the possible future and direction of tennis and ways in which it could develop. He discussed the trends developing within the game (elite player’s tendency to use larger, lighter rackets and cheaper strings) and how this can change the way in which the game is played and also what products the customer base purchase. With clay courts being made faster and grass courts being made slower (by using different grass blends apparently) the differences in play and style are being reduced, this obviously isn’t great with regards to innovation. So where could the sport go? Johan mentioned the use of new exciting materials such as spider silk (a potentially incredible material that’s been somewhat marginalised by the rise in nano-technology) and even tiny laminate screens which could be used to customise the look of a racket. In the far future Johan sees a game of tennis without boundaries, perhaps a split from the traditional game, but one which allows any technology to be used and one without limits. Can’t wait.
For more work by Head on damping ski vibration using smart materials see this paper.
I’d also like to congratulate all the members of the Sports Engineering Research group who managed to pick up a prize at the banquet dinner last night, fantastic results for the whole group. In two years the conference will be in Boston, I predict a flurry of Olympic related wonder research, should be great.
2nd 3rd (4th) place beach Volleyball award, ISEA 2010