Tracking the performance of athletes
How mapping mechanical principles onto athletes could enhance sports coverage
What we've done
Asked how the BBC could develop its sports coverage in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics, we started to look into using the tools and techniques of biomechanics.
Used by sports scientists, biomechanics applies mechanical principles to living organisms to examine the internal and external forces acting on them and the effects produced. It is a large and varied scientific field, combining the disciplines of biology and engineering mechanics to study everything from the molecular level up to entire skeletons.
We wanted to find out if these analysis techniques and tools could be used to provide new and interesting insights into the performance of athletes, which we hoped TV sports viewers would enjoy.
More project info
How it works
The technology we have been developing first extracts information about the position of athletes and cameras from sports scenes, without using sensors or markers that might affect an athlete's performance.
We then produced tools to visualise this information for analysis during broadcast or online. The sort of statistics that result may be the power or energy being exerted by the athlete, or the angle of their movement. This builds on our previous work on sports graphics, which has been commercialised in products including the award-winning Piero system, used for analysis of sports such as football and rugby.
Finally, we are examining how we might communicate this information to the viewer, looking into what might be the most suitable medium and how to make it as appealing and interesting as possible.
We want to provide the most informative, educational and entertaining analysis of sports events that we can, by making the best use of the latest developments in areas including sports science, motion analysis, graphics and augmented reality
This work has already resulted in a few applications that have been used by BBC Sport (see more information about each in the blog posts below). One application, made available to the public in time for the Opening Ceremony, allowed users to compare their performance with trained athletes.
And on the morning of Sunday 11 August 2012, BBC diving commentators Leon Taylor and Mishal Husain discussed British medal-hopeful Tom Daley's below-par performance, using graphics showing the size of the splash and angle of entry that came directly from our work on biomechanics. They even got Samuel L. Jackson tweeting about it.