An unobtrusive sensor that collects and immediately transmits data from the human body could boost athletic performance. Developed at Imperial College London with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the UK, the new sensor also has potential in healthcare.
The sensor is the size of a cufflink and clips behind the wearer's ear, where it gathers data about the athlete's motion: posture, stride length, step frequency, acceleration, and response to shock waves traveling through the body. When worn by an athlete during training, it transmits the data to a handheld device used by a coach, who can give on-the-spot advice and instruction regarding technique.
The sensor is inspired by the semicircular canals of the inner ear, which play a key role in controlling motion and balance, according to the researchers. The sensor does not cause discomfort and, because it is worn behind the ear, does not adversely affect aerodynamics. By contrast, body sensors currently available are cumbersome to wear and the data cannot be displayed in real time.
The sensor could also have potential for use in monitoring patients with degenerative arthritis or neurological gait abnormalities, as well as those who have undergone orthopedic surgery. In the field of human/computer interfacing, the device could be used to translate body movement and physical exercise into computer games or virtual reality-based sports training.