This is why a new piece of technology that has been pioneered at the University of Birmingham could prove such a game changer. The MotivePro ‘vibrating suit’ comprises a series of sensors placed around the body in important postural areas that can detect whether the person is in the correct position during their activity.
Professor Gregory Sporton, one of the leaders of the research team at Birmingham University said, “The suit is designed to give wearers feedback about where their body is in space. It does this by focussing on key points in the body and taking relative measurements between them to check the user’s position. This data, much more simple to acquire and treat in real time than more complex motion capture systems, is then used to give the wearer feedback in real time about their movement.”
This is not the only use of the data: it can also be transformed into sound or visual files, all designed to give feedback in real time
The wearer feels vibrations when they are in an incorrect position for a particular activity. Sporton says, “The sensors include a vibrating motor, like that found on a mobile phone, and these can be set to vibrate to indicate when someone moves outside a desirable range. This is not the only use of the data: it can also be transformed into sound or visual files, all designed to give feedback in real time that enables wearers to adjust their movements in performance.”
As well as real time applications the system can also record the movements so that you can look at, and learn from, the data after the event. Sporton adds, “This means that archives can be built up showing relative performance over time, any long term trajectories identified and the use of the data to make averages amongst particular user groups”.
One person who tested the equipment is rhythmic gymnast Mimi Cesar, an Olympic hopeful who is currently ranked 3rd in the UK. Sporton tested out the equipment on Cesar and through the sensors quickly noticed small improvements that could be made to enhance her performance. Sporton said, “We managed to identify a moment in her bend curve where she’s just got to use a little more abdominal support in order to get that moving, it’s quite subtle but it is actually quite important. The other is really looking at how she can rack up the competition points by making sure her hands are in a good relation to her feet.”
The MotivePro vibrating suit can be useful in other fields too. For example, making sure a person is using correct posture when lifting heavy items.
It is estimated that around 3,500 health workers are affected by back pain every year. With this in mind the equipment has been tested out in the Health Faculty at Birmingham University. In these instances the suit vibrated when the person moved their position more than 15 degrees forward or 10 degrees backward (positions where you are most likely to damage the spine).
She can rack up the competition points by making sure her hands are in a good relation to her feet
To stop the vibration the person needed to move back into a neutral position. When you learn that the absence of staff on sick leave due to back pain is costing the NHS an astonishing 400 million a year you begin to understand what an important investment the ‘vibrating suit’ could be!
See the ‘vibrating suit’ in action here:
For more information go to www.bcu.ac.uk
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