The 2012 London Olympics are poised to be the most tech-forward Summer Olympic games. During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, 108 world records were set–until those games, only an average of 22 records had been broken at Olympic games. Why the massive increase in Beijing? Advances in technology. In the four years since Beijing, the world has seen even greater innovations in this sector– in 2008, Facebook and Twitter were still in their infancy, the iPhone was in its first generation, and being able to make a payment through NFC technology was just a dream.
How will the current advances in technology give Olympic hopefuls an edge in the competition? From specially designed, golf-ball inspired track suits that promise to shave 0.023 seconds off a sprinter’s 100m time to cycling bikes with the least possible drag that increase the possibility of reducing mile splits by 1.6 seconds, athletes are better equipped than ever to win gold.
Some athletes are further embracing technology, using sensors and chips to help them analyze their performance, guaranteeing their movements are as efficient as possible- and therefore hopefully increase their chance for winning Olympic gold.
British gymnast Mimi Cesar has perfected her rhythmic floor routine using MotivePro, a vibrating suit that uses a modular system of sensors on her body to track and record her movements. The sensors give her real-time feedback as to where her body is in space, and vibrate when her arms, legs, head, chest, or feet go outside a desired range of motion. Because the feedback is instantaneous, Mimi can correct and refine her position while doing her routine. The suit can also give her audio cues as to when she’s out of alignment, and after she’s finished her routine, she can play back her performance to see visual cues to help make it perfect. According to MotivePro:
The system can also record the movements as well, to use after the event. 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.
Watch a video of Mimi demonstrate MotivePro below:
Lolo Jones, an American hurdler, is also using motion-detecting sensors to optimize her form in her quest to win gold in the 100m hurdle event. Unlike Mimi, who has several minutes to complete her event, Lolo’s event will be over in roughly 12 seconds- every fraction of a second could mean the difference between placing at the Olympics or falling short. To improve her performance and to drop her average time, Lolo tracks every second of her performance using a 40 Vicon T40S motion-capture cameras that record 2,000 frames per second. The cameras capture the 39 reflective motion detection sensors Lolo wears on her body, allowing her and her team to analyze her every movement down to millimeters.
With the help of the system, Lolo has been able to identify a potential problem area- her left leg. In her first 8 steps, Lolo’s left leg wasn’t accelerating at the same rate as her right leg, costing her 0.01 seconds for every step she took. Although 0.01 seconds per step doesn’t sound like much, consider this- the difference between the current world record in the 100m hurdles- 12.21 seconds- is only 8 hundredths of a second away from Lolo’s personal best- 12.29 seconds (set at the 2008 Olympic trials). With the motion-capture technology, can Lolo beat her own personal best to set a new world record in London?
Watch a video of Lolo using the motion-capture sensors:
Mimi and Lolo, as well as many other of the 10,500 athletes competing at the London 2012 games, are using advanced technology to improve their chances of winning. Can these innovations help hopeful Olympians win gold, and will those who didn’t employ technology to guide their training be at a disadvantage? Our eyes will be on gold medal winners and world record breakers– if more than 108 world records are shattered at this year’s games, (the high set in Beijing) it could serve as a definitive answer that technology does make a difference between just being an Olympian and being a medal-winning Olympian.
With support from our partner, Intel, we’re exploring how innovations in technology are re-shaping the world of sport. Intel is committed to improving our lives with fast, light, wireless (and stylish!) technology. Their goal is to develop tools that help us create amazing things. And we think that’s amazing. Follow the conversation on Twitter with #intelalwayson.