If you have been reading my blog recently, you will know that I’ve been involved with a project at Imperial College London working with the design and engineering students. The project, funded by Rio Tinto, focused on innovation within Paralympic sport with my role being to help inform the students work by give some real world feedback and provide the odd idea myself where needed.
On Monday the 5th March Jill and myself travelled back to London one last time to have a look at the students final work which was being displayed as part of an exhibition and awards evening.
Although I knew roughly what many of the projects were looking at, I was still amazed at some of the fully working prototypes they had come up with in less than a month from the start of this whole process. I was also really pleased that one of the project’s I had been involved ‘The Ghost’, was voted the winning design with the team who had worked on it receiving a £5,000 grant to develop the idea further!
The Ghost is a devise that was designed with the aim of helping people with a visual problem learn specific movement patterns, such as those employed in correct swimming technique for example. The thinking was that it can be very difficult to pick up accurate movement patterns with poor or no vision. Spmething like swimming depends heavily on having good form if you want to go quick.
The device consists of several straps that simply wrap around each joint (i.e. wrist, elbow etc.). You pre-set the limb in the various positions you want the athlete to achieve to gain that elusive good technique with the devise remembering those key positions. Once the athlete begins to practise the desired movement the pads independently vibrate more and more until the limb is in the correct first position. Once that is achieved the machine beeps and you continue the movement trying to achieve the second pre-set position and so on. By using both vibration and sound it seems to aid the development of proprioceptive skills.
To see the Ghost in action click here for a video.
My feeling is that the Ghost has a lot of potential: It could be used to help people learn any number of movement patterns, it could be used to help people with learning disabilities who often struggle with co-ordination or perhaps even in Neuro rehabilitation. Maybe a sports player wanting to learn the Andy Murray tennis serve or the Tiger Woods golf swing could just download whatever technique they want to practise and upload their training data collected to a coach to analysis…
Another of my favourites was a Haptic vision device that allowed a runner with no sight (or in blackout glasses) to navigate a course safely without needing to be tied to someone or even have verbal instructions. See the video – it has to be seen to be believed! (no pun intended). Again it’s in the early stages of development but this could be a really useful tool in promoting independence within sports such as running, swimming and maybe even cycling where the environment is suitable.
I was surprised to be asked to do the odd interview whilst we were at the exhibition, perhaps not realising how big an event this would be. This turned out to be several with CNN, ITV London news, Channel 4 news live, Sports Industry.Biz and the Telegraph newspaper all wanting some of my time. I have to admit to being a bit knackered after all that posing, demonstrations and answering questions!
Here is a few links to those videos and articles related to this project: –
Over-all, it’s been a great pleasure to have been involved in this project. The students have shown a real interest in what they are doing and have managed to come up with some fantastic products that might just have a role within Paralympic sports training or competition somewhere along the line