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PolyU and DGS Launch AI-Driven Swimtech Lab

Image Credits: PolyU, Press Release
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A research team led by Dr Billy So, a core member of the Research Institute for Sports Science and Technology (RISports) and Assistant Professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, is dedicated to improving swimmer performance by merging sports technology with biomechanics.

Image Credits: PolyU, Press Release

The team uses advanced wearable sensors and an underwater camera system to capture and analyse data on swimmers’ start jump motions and swimming postures, including body movement and muscle activity. This data aids coaches in designing optimised training programs for athletes. The Diocesan Girls’ School (DGS) swimming team has integrated these biomechanical training methods into their routine to achieve greater training effectiveness.

To promote joint research in sports science and technology, PolyU RISports and DGS have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish the “PolyU-DGS AI Swimtech Laboratory.” Under this agreement, DGS will provide swimming facilities where PolyU researchers will install data collection equipment and organise research trials with student swimmers.

This collaboration aims to enhance research on elite athlete performance and talent identification, maximising athletic performance at the school level and nurturing future swimming talent for the local community. Additionally, it seeks to promote STEM education and foster a culture of innovation and technology on campus.

PolyU’s Vice President for Research and Innovation highlighted Hong Kong’s success on the international stage in swimming, attributing part of this success to integrating technology in athletic training. He emphasised that such collaborations help unlock athletes’ potential and achieve notable results. PolyU is committed to translating research outcomes and is pleased to work with DGS to enhance student athletes’ competitiveness. PolyU’s Vice President believes that participation in research offers students valuable immersive learning experiences, cultivating their interest in innovation and technology, and developing their knowledge in mathematics, science, and engineering.

The Headmistress of DGS noted that the school, with over 160 years of history, has pioneered innovative technology education. She expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration with PolyU’s RISports team, which allows DGS swimming athletes to apply research achievements in artificial intelligence and biomechanics to their training. This initiative empowers student-athletes to excel in swimming and enhances their practical application skills in sports science and problem-solving using AI. The project aims to better prepare students for the innovation and technology-driven world.

In competitive swimming, particularly in short-course competitions, subtle movements can be crucial to victory. Dr. Billy So’s research focuses on developing systematic biomechanical training to enhance swimmers’ performance. Key findings of his research include:

Start Jump Motion Analysis

The start of a jump in swimming requires precise timing, speed, and angle. The team uses a surface electromyography system to capture athletes’ lower limb movements during start jumps. A reaction time start board and video analytics provide immediate data on jump reaction times, entry angles, and speeds, helping swimmers adjust their posture. In a six-week training program involving 30 DGS swimmers, participants improved their start jump performance by an average of 0.127 seconds, with the same improvement seen in their reaction times.

Propulsive Force Analysis

The propulsive force in swimming comes from stroking and kicking, supported by core muscle stability. The team uses an underwater electromyography system and a tethered swimming testing system to analyse the propulsive force generated by athletes. This data helps coaches adjust techniques and develop training to enhance performance. An eight-week core stability training program for 30 student-athletes resulted in a 10% increase in propulsive force and an improvement of 0.02 to 0.03 meters per second in 50-meter freestyle speeds.

Muscle Activity Analysis

Waterproof wearable electromyography sensors and an underwater camera system capture muscle activity in swimmers’ arms, shoulders, legs and trunks during start jumps, strokes, and turns. This system will be tested at DGS with elite student swimmers.

Future collaboration with PolyU’s Department of Computing aims to integrate video motion analysis and wearable motion inertial sensors to develop a novel AI model, enhancing the system’s accuracy.

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