ELBOWS up, back straight! Like a personal weightlifting coach, a new workout tracking system can monitor your exercise, making sure that you complete your reps and sets correctly – improving how you pump iron and cutting the risk of injury.
Devices that use on-body or ambient sensors to log sports activity are commonplace, but they mostly rely on accelerometers to tally up how much you move and detect which activity you are performing, be it running or walking. They don’t provide feedback on your technique.
Eduardo Velloso at Lancaster University, UK, built a system that uses the depth-sensing camera from a Microsoft Kinect gaming sensor to capture a weightlifter’s motion in three dimensions. The set-up monitors form during lifting movements and provides real-time feedback on an LCD panel. Green or red signals let the lifter know if their back, feet and elbows are in the right position, and show the range of motion and speed of each lift.
In tests, novice weightlifters made 23 per cent fewer mistakes during lateral dumbbell raises, and nearly 80 per cent fewer mistakes during biceps curls than they did when unaided. Velloso presented the results earlier this month at the Augmented Human conference in Stuttgart, Germany.
Novice weightlifters made 80 per cent fewer mistakes during biceps curls than they did when unaided
While the prototype system needed to be preprogrammed to track the components of each movement, Velloso has since expanded its capabilities to monitor and provide feedback on any physical activity, without the need for explicit instructions or programming.
“We created another system that observes users performing movements with a Kinect camera and extracts a model of the movement automatically,” he says. The idea is that the system will ultimately be able to watch an expert perform an athletic motion, break it down into components, and compare those with the way a beginner performs the same movement. It can then provide instant feedback to correct any flaws.
Matthew Pain of Loughborough University, UK, says the system probably isn’t accurate enough to provide feedback to elite athletes. But it could help amateurs improve their form. “The level of detail presented here can be especially useful in home monitoring of exercise,” he says.
This article appeared in print under the headline “Pump iron the smart way with motion capture coach”