[ASC-media] Media release: tracking champions

CRCA Media crcamedia at starclass.com.au
Tue Nov 1 21:12:19 EST 2005


CRCA Media Release 05/34 

November 2, 2005


TRACKING OUR NEXT CHAMPIONS

A secret weapon in Australia's bid for swimming success at the coming Commonwealth Games may well be hidden in the swimmer's trunks. 

Australian athletes are going into international competition, including the Commonwealth Games, trained with a high technology that helps them shave fractions of a second off their times.

Traqua, developed by the CRC for microTechnology for the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), is the leading edge of the next sports revolution - providing hard data in real time on an athlete's motion to reinforce the coach's eye and instincts.

Developed originally for rowing, the motion-sensing technology is now extensively used by the nation's elite swimmers and is being evaluated for other sports such as football, cycling, snowboarding and sailing.

"Coaches are using the Traqua technology to get immediate feedback on athlete performance to support and quantify what they can see with their eye and stopwatch," explains AIS senior sports physiologist Dr Tony Rice.

"It's all about efficiency - the 1 per cent gain: how much you put in, and what you get out of it."

Traqua consists of an unobtrusive plastic case containing micro-machined, high-precision inertial sensors, digital recording and radio equipment.  These sense the athlete's movement and position in the water, analyse it with sophisticated software and report it to the watching coach, who can then provide immediate advice on overcoming any flaws that hamper optimum performance.

In swimmers the device sits in the back of the athlete's costume and will report things like stroke rate and symmetry, body roll, distance and lap count, split times and turn times.  These enable the coach to take a much more detailed look at components of the swimmer's stroke, body angle and motion such as roll, dip or yaw that might penalise speed through the water.

"Most sports measurements are still fairly basic - often just a stop watch and distance," says microTech's Shaun Holthouse. "Traqua enables the coach to analyse the athlete's motion stroke-by-stroke in real time or play it back after. It reports in 200 times a second which gives you a huge amount of information to work with."

The technology is now in its fourth generation, having had successful trials in the 2003 World Rowing Championships and the Athens Olympics.  "Basically it's a platform technology you can adapt to almost any sport involving body motion," Mr Holthouse says.

As it catches on for training, he forsees the technology may also be adopted to eliminate the 'human factor' in judging of sports such as boxing and diving.

"We expect electronics to become an integral  part of most sports equipment. Whereas today you buy just a tennis racquet, in the future you will buy a racquet that tells you how fast you serve and how clean your forehand was so that you can compare yourself to the champions"

The microTech CRC estimates the world market for such advanced training and coaching devices at tens of millions of dollars - but as they catch on in the big sports like soccer, the sky is the limit. 

Individual devices cost a few hundred dollars. The hardware can be generic to a number of sports but the real secret lies in the mathematical algorithms which analyse the crude data for a particular sport or action. Logging ability also allows the coach to examine long-term trends in the athlete's performance in minute detail and assess the benefits of various training regimes.

The same technology also has potential uses in healthcare - for example in remote monitoring of patients at risk of a fall, for rehabilitation after an accident or the treatment of obesity.

The Traqua technology was development within the CRC for microTechnology by Griffith, Swinburne and RMIT universities and engineering firm iWRX.

It addresses National Research Priorities two and three, a healthy Australia and frontier technologies to transform industry.
  
More information:
Shaun Holthouse, CRC for microTechnology, ph 03 9214 8557
Dr Tony Rice, AIS, 02 6214 7891
Clive Davenport, CEO CRC for microTechnology, ph 03 9214 8557
www.microtechnologycrc.com

Prof. Julian Cribb, CRCA Media, 0418 639 245
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