Many professional athletes employ motion capture technology to help identify problems with their techniques so they can be corrected. However, such technology generally takes the athlete out of the usual performing environment and only lets them review their technique after the fact. Now researchers at Birmingham City University have developed a wearable device, dubbed the “Vibrating Suit,” that provides feedback to the wearer about where their body is in space in real time. Aside from assisting athletes perfect their technique, the technology could also be used to help prevent injuries in those that perform strenuous activities as part of their job.

Similar to much simpler wearable devices such as the iPosture, which vibrates when it detects slouching, the MotivePro promotes improved technique by vibrating when a body part moves outside a desirable range. The system analyzes the wearer’s position by taking relative measurements between tiny sensors attached to key points on the wearer’s body. When the user moves outside a desirable range, vibrating motors built into the sensors activate, thereby letting the person know which body movement needs attention in real time so adjustments can be made during the performance. In this way, the suit encourages the development of muscle memory so the athletes can perform on the big stage without conscious effort.

“The system can also record the movements as well, to use after the event,” said Professor Gregory Sporton, who led the research project at Birmingham City University. “This means that archives can be built up showing relative performance over time, any long term trajectories identified and the use of the data to make averages amongst particular user groups.”

Being an Olympic year, much of the focus on the technology involves improving sporting performances. However, it also has potential applications outside the sporting arena. Healthcare workers, baggage handlers, factory workers, military personnel and others who undertake strenuous physical activity as part of their job could use the system to help prevent injury. For example, the suit is also being used at Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Health, where nursing students are being taught how to move patients and lift heavy objects without straining their backs.

MotivePro was showcased at the House of Commons this week as part of the Olympic themed Universities Week 2012. It has also been recently tested by U.K. Olympic gymnastics hopeful Mimi Cesar, who can be seen using the system in the following video.

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