Advanced Circuits Blog

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AC Blog: How Mini PCBs Will Make You Better at Your Game

Miniature Circuit Boards in Sports Gear Track & Analyze Your Moves

Ever get sick of missing free throws or is golf getting just too maddening? Technology innovation that can help may soon be available to not only professional athletes but hardcore amateurs as well. University of Michigan engineering professor Noel Perkins and his colleagues have invented a way to embed tiny circuit boards that contain micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) that measure and transmit movement. They can measure and analyze swings, shots, and a person’s entire range of motion; including what his or her arms, legs, back and other body parts are doing. These systems can track a pitch or hit in baseball, a football throw or catch, a golf swing, and many more sports feats.

Professor Perkins developed the sensors that are the thickness of a human hair, to help him improve his fly fishing. As he continued to innovate with this new system he saw the implications of this technology. He believed he could apply it to a wide range of sports participants. The MEMS don’t make the movement for the person or guarantee that it will be improved, but the data that is collected by laptops and smartphones that the user associates with the sensors can provide incredible amounts of information.

How Do the Sensors Work?

The data is organized and made useful by algorithms built into the sensors. The result is data that instead of being a jumble coming from multiple sensors, arrives into an app in a usable form for athletes. The athletes can use this information to improve their game; i.e., change their movements so that they can become more accurate, deliver more power, etc. These improvements can include changing stance, the angle for holding and swinging a bat, and a variety of position points of arms and legs. Sometimes just slight adjustments to these points can make a big difference in an athlete’s performance.

A Step Beyond Analyzing Video

Athletes and sports teams already make extensive use of video to analyze performance, and the video game industry has used sensors to map player movements so they can make their games more realistic. Now printed circuit boards are helping to drive the technology that allows NFL teams, for example, to embed sensors in shoulder pads (this has been going on since 2014 and is accelerating in adoption). Not only do NFL teams use this data to help improve performance, but it will be used to provide new stats to broadcasters during games. It was already used last season to make game day even more realistic for XBox users. They had access to speed, distance, and more data, and the data is viewable in real time.

So what does this all mean for the average golfer who wants to find ways to take a few strokes off his or her game? In only a few years every piece of clothing, shoes, glasses and the clubs themselves will potentially have these sensors built in to give the best data available on every swing.

Concussions are a hot topic in the NFL and other sports right now. The new sensor technology is also promising for measuring head impacts and could help improve sports concussion research and treatment.

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