BMW has been the Official Mobility Partner of the US Olympic Committee for six years, now. BMW has developed bobsleds for the US Olympic team and even a carbon fiber racing wheelchair for the Paralympic track and field team. However, the Bavarians are now turning their attention to the pool, as it will be using its autonomous driving technology to help improve the US Olympic swimmers.
That may sound strange, but it’s actually quite brilliant. The very same computer vision technology that helps autonomous BMWs see other cars, lanes, pedestrians and parking spaces is being used to track swimmers and their body motions. BMW calls it the “Taillight” solution, as it uses the same sort of LED lights for this as it does for the taillights on its high-end cars.
The process begins with BMW placing LED lights on certain points on the swimmer’s body; such as shoulders, hips, knees, wrists and angles. These LEDs are small and light enough that they aren’t felt by the swimmer and therefor don’t impede and motion or action. An underwater camera then is able to spot these LEDs and capture motion points, breaking down the swimmer’s form and technique. From there, swimmers and their coaches are able to correct and mistakes and improve on certain movements.
The coaches seem to be pleased with BMW’s new motion tracking system. “The goal is that by comparing measurements to performance over time, we can use BMW’s motion tracking tool to hone in on technique adjustments that work best for each individual swimmer,” said Russell Mark, USA Swimming’s National Team performance consultant. “The tool is an exploratory project that we’ll continue evaluating over time, but our hope is that the potential of its outcome can make a significant impact on the future generation of swimmers.”
But it was actually a tricky system to create, being that it needed to be durable enough to handle the rigors of Olympic training but also be delicate enough to not be noticed by the athletes. According to Peter Falt, Director of BMW’s Design Works, this system was designed to “hold up to the intense forces of Olympic swimmers,”. However, BMW wants it to be as invisible as possible and “disappear, meaning that they are not noticeable by the swimmer or impede their motion in any way.”
So now, when you watch the Olympic games, you know that some of the same technology that went into each US swimmer’s training could also be in your new BMW. Does that make you an Olympic athlete?
[Source: Tech Crunch]