Ghost Smart Sensor Glove Coaches Blind Athletes

Ghost Smart Sensor Glove Coaches Blind Athletes

(—An engineering team from Imperial College London have come up with a vibrating armband tagged Ghost that can train a person’s muscles and teach the user how to swing like Nadal, or play golf like Tiger, or help improve moves in other sports. The vibrating device, in prototype stage, is called Ghost because it can copy another person’s movement. The user can download the movements of Wimbledon tennis players, for example, and the device will teach the user how to copy the stars’ movements. Arm motion can be digitally recorded from the player of choice, and that arm motion is uploaded to the armband from the computer. Ads by Google Fitness & Spa Equipment – Design, Supply, Train & Maintain Technogym, GeoSpa, Unbeschieden – Through “muscle memory” the player, in a tennis practice scenario, can attempt to repeat the serve. “Muscle memory” is when sports players are able to perform a precise movement unconsciously after repeatedly practicing the same task. The hand and armband device uses vibrating pads and sensors to fine-tune arms into carrying out the preplanned movements. Benedict Copping, an engineer at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art and the team leader, said: “A coach can set a series of way points that the wearer has to move through and the device tells them if they are hitting them by vibrating as they move.” The Ghost has an array of sensors that detect the twisting and flexing of a person’s joints. LED lights tell the user of stroke accuracy. Vibrators help guide the path of the arm. This video is not supported by your browser at this time. The vibrating armband originated, though, as not something for aspiring Wimbledon stars but as an assistive device to teach blind athletes how to swim. “Ghost: A Paralympic Trainer” was purposed as a wearable coaching aid that would give feedback when certain moves were correctly executed. The designer team noted that it is vision that allows people in sports to imitate and refine muscular movements. Those with severe visual impairments find it difficult to correct complex motion skills. The Ghost team noted how swimmers practice to refine and polish their stroke mechanics, and vision allows sighted swimmers to imitate and refine muscular movements. Having a severe visual impairment can make it difficult to correct and perfect complex motion skills; the visually impaired cannot make use of coaching demos or video analysis techniques, for example. The team’s device provided instant feedback via vibration for constant technique improvement in conjunction with or in the absence of the coach. Feedback of the athlete’s motion was along a predefined pathway, made of a series of gateways memorized by the device and set by the coach, which allowed them to form competitive muscle memories through repetition. The athlete guided motions through these gateways by strong LED indications and vibration at each joint. The device was programmed from an Arduino mini, using off the shelf components. “For people who cannot see very well, this could allow them to practice technique and become really efficient,” said Copping.

The Project

A 3 week group project in collaboration with the London Paralympic Games 2012, Rio Tinto and world class athlete stakeholders such as Jimmy Godard and Iain Dawson.

The Problem

A key problem we identified within our brief was that visually impared or indeed blind athletes having trouble with their kinesthetic movements, basically locating their limbs in space. Currently the only real way to ovecome this is to practice sporting technique, whether it be a swimming stroke, tennis stroke or archery with a personal trainer learning the movement through rote memorisation until becomes part of their muscle memory. This obviously creates a number of problems, key of which is requiring a personal coach in order to train which is very expensive and highly restrictive to an athletes development and indeed the development of new para Olympic talent.

The Insight

Through continuous ideation and fast prototypes we identified that it was possible to guide the body with extreme accuracy using haptic (vibration) based feedback, bypassing the need for full vision.

The Idea & Prototype

So in response to this we developed the ghost system, a device that allows you to train independently of a personal coach freeing the athletes to take control over their development and training. This is achieved by storing the position data for an optimum technique, lets say a swimming stroke, inside the device and guiding the athlete through the technique by providing vibration feed back relative to their accuracy.

The device operates by setting and identifying “waypoints” throughout the technique, which are utilised to guide the athlete through the optimum stroke, pull or launch. For example now a personal trainer can take the athlete through the technique once setting up the device or more efficiently download the metric for an optimum technique on to the device. Once the device is set the athlete begins training and as they move through those waypoints receive vibration feedback relative to their accuracy on hitting those waypoints.

The idea is that with each revolution muscle memory is being earned without the need for an expensive personal trainer. Allowing the athlete to train longer, more efficiently and with better accuracy. As I’m sure any athlete will tell you more training and better training means medals.

The Paralympics are always a reminder of how one physical disability does not define the rest of the person. Quadriplegics can still fire rifles and throw a ball, and blind people can still run, jump, and swim. The difference for blind folks, though, is that athletes learn correct muscle motion by studying the movement of others, and blind people can’t really do that. Trainers usually guide blind athletes by directly moving their arms and legs, helping to embed the movements into their muscle memory.

PhysOrg is profiling the work of researchers at Imperial College London who developed a vibrational feedback device that teaches blind people to perform precise repetitive movements without an ever-present coach. The Ghost system can memorize specific movements when demonstrated by a trainer. The athlete can then repeatedly practice those movements while the Ghost monitors their accuracy and provides guidance using vibrations and audio cues.

Moreover, the system can import motion recordings taken from star athletes, helping the blind reproduce techniques that win medals in the Olympics. Although the system was designed specifically for blind athletes, we expect the technology to find its way to people recovering from a stroke or other neurological conditions.

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