April 29 - A pocket-sized inertial navigation system worn inside a swimsuit has been designed by Swiss scientists to help Olympic hopefuls analyse their swimming techniques and improve their performance. The Physilog III is in the final stages of patenting. Swimmers and coaches in the Swiss city of Lausanne say it will be a major boost in their efforts to win gold. Jim Drury has the story.
Eighteen-year-old Alexandre Harmuth is hoping to make Switzerland's Olympic swimming team - not for this year's games, but for the Rio Olympics in 2016. He's training hard...but the pocket-sized inertial navigation system attached to his swimsuit will tell him if he's training hard - or efficiently - enough. SOUNDBITE: ALEXANDRE HARMUTH, 2016 OLYMPIC HOPEFUL, SAYING: "This could be useful for Olympic-level swimmers because no one is perfect. They may always have minor weaknesses which could be improved by new, different technologies, and then take a few tenths or hundredths of a second from their Olympic and world records." It's called the Physilog III, created by scientists at the Lausanne Polytechnic Institute in Switzerland to record the swimmer's every stroke. The device consists of sensors, accelerometers, and gyroscopes sewn into a full-body swimsuit. Its inventors say it allows coaches to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of their charges. Professor Kamiar Aminian heads the project. SOUNDBITE: PROFESSOR KAMIAR AMINIAN, DIRECTOR OF THE LABORATORY OF MOVEMENT, ANALYSIS, AND MEASUREMENT AT EPFL, SAYING: "Everything is recorded on the device. It's like a recorded, a voice recorder, but instead of measuring voice it registers motion....At the end of the measurement, the data, which is on the memory card of the device, is removed and transferred onto the computer and then we run a program which measures, which process the signals, and estimates the different parameters of the performance." Lead researcher, PhD student Farzin Dadashi, started the project after premier swim club Lausanne Natation requested technical help. Dadashi analyses the performances of swimmers wearing the suit. Automatic detection of swim strokes helps him link energy expenditure with the athletes' co-ordination and speed. SOUNDBITE: FARZIN DADASHI, PhD STUDENT AT EPFL, SAYING: "This will give us an analytical tool to describe the movement of the swimmer and then based on this new analytical tool the coach will be enabled to actually devise a new self-optimised programme for training session for each swimmer." Alexandre Harmuth's coach Laurent Trincat uses the technique to train his Olympic hopefuls. SOUNDBITE: LAURENT TRINCAT, LAUSANNE NATATION SWIMMING COACH, SAYING: "For the Olympics, yes, absolutely, we are training for the swimming events with athletes who could be selected for the Olympic Games, and we hope to be able to work with this system." Physilog III was co-developed with the University of Lausanne with the sponsorship of the Swiss National Science Foundation. Its creators say the device is superior to more conventional, camera-based systems.Cameras focus only on one swimmer at a time and data can take several days to analyse. Physilog III can be worn by multiple swimmers and its data analysed by computer within minutes. If its patent is approved, the scientists plan to make the devices smaller and more efficient..helping aspiring champions like Alexandre go for gold. Jim Drury, Reuters