BMW Technology to Help Olympic Swimmers Go for Gold
The automaker provides USA Swimming with a motion-tracking system to monitor and improve athletes' dolphin kick.
Until now, coaches have been unable to concretely measure their swimmers’ technique; video analysis historically has been a subjective process that comes down to eyeballing underwater gyrations. But the BMW technology will enable them to quantify athletes’ movements using concrete measurements.
"With BMW's help … we're going to put markers on six different joints, and with that we'll be able to measure angles of someone's body as they're going through their dolphin-kick technique,” Mark said. “We'll be able to understand what truly makes our best kickers good and what other kickers can improve on.” Those six joints are the wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and toes; the underwater cameras will measure the number of strokes and analyze the speed of the strokes and the depth of a swimmer’s kick.
The technology will be used to tailor improvements to individual swimmers, but another part of the plan is to create a video library of dolphin kicks obtained from footage shot at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Tracking these kicks over time will give coaches a body of research that could help them devise a "gold standard" for swimmers to follow to improve their technique.
The software being used by USA Swimming is the same as what you’d find today in, say, a 5-Series sedan. “Our current production cars have six or seven cameras,” said Cris Pavloff of BMW USA’s Group Technology Office. “Right now, they're used for parking assistance, they're used to detect the lanes, they look out and find speed-limit signs and read the speed-limit information.”
BMW is hoping that information from the USA Swimming program will flow both ways. It wants to use information gleaned from swimming-pool lanes to improve safety in driving lanes, Pavloff says. "Looking in a pool, in a medium where there are a lot of bubbles, the colors are shifting, we learn techniques about how to make our detection techniques that much better." The company is specifically hoping to improve object-, pedestrian- and lane-detection technology.
This isn’t BMW’s first foray into Olympic sport. Last spring, the automaker provided USA Track & Field with a velocity measurement tool that analyzes long-jump performances.
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