ISBS 2018 Recap

Denny Wells, Logemas  

Last week I had my first opportunity to attend a conference as an industry partner with the Vicon team. The 36th International Conference on Biomechanics in Sports was hosted by the Auckland University of Technology and run by the Sports Performance Research Institute NZ (SPRINZ). I am in a unique position, as I held a research role at this institute before undertaking my current position at Logemas/Vicon. This allowed for an opportunity to catch up with both old work friends as well as conference acquaintances.

The conference was incredibly impressive, and full congratulations must go to Patria Hume, Jacqueline Alderson, Kelly Sheerin and their small army of volunteers for bringing such a large conference to successful fruition. Many innovations were at the forefront, such as minimal waste (no single use plastics allowed) and minimising the use of paper (all posters were presented digitally). The social events kept us busy, and the infamous Auckland weather even permitted an uninterrupted view during our Sky Tower visit!

The blue puffer jackets supplied by Vicon were highly popular, as evidenced here on our way to the Sky Tower.

 As always, it was great to see Vicon powering so much of the science on display. The popular running/gait and injury prevention sessions were complemented by a growing body of research involving implement sports (including my own presentation investigating darts!).

The emphasis of the Biomechanics in Sports conference is to bridge the gap between scientists and practitioners. The ultimate task of a sports biomechanist is to test athletes where they train while competing with comparable accuracy to lab-based systems. It was great to be able to present two Vicon solutions to this challenge.

The flagship marker-based Vicon systems (i.e., Vantage) can be used outside to produce data on-par with a laboratory setup. This was on display at our booth with a video demonstrating all 10 disciplines from the decathlon being captured by a Vantage system on track and field. The robustness and flexibility of the system was on display, recording straight-line volumes (long jump), circular volumes (discus), implements (javelin), and runs and jumps (pole vault). This video certainly caught eyes as they wandered past, but many of the conversations I had were directed towards the second solution now offered by Vicon…

A screenshot from our stall video of the javelin capture.

Inertial sensors, or inertial measurement units (IMUs) were very much the talk of the conference. Requiring only the sensors themselves and a device or laptop, the Blue Thunder IMUs offered by Vicon/IMeasureU provide an alternative to camera-based systems; an appealing prospect for both coaches and athletes alike. The current conundrum for many sports research labs is to understand the data obtained by the IMUs, identify movement events/patterns and validate their movement identification algorithms. This validation is usually performed by comparing IMU outputs with gold standard marker-based data. Our applied session on Wednesday afternoon, run by Kelly Sheerin, Thor Besier and myself, demonstrated the capacity of Vicon Nexus to simultaneously capture marker, forceplate and IMU data with a single ‘Start Capture’ button press. Researchers were interested in employing IMUs for a vast number of applications including gymnastics, shooting/archery and ergonomics.

Marker, IMU (top right) and force plate data (bottom right) being simultaneously recorded in Nexus.

Thank you to everyone involved, I had an amazing time, learnt so much and thoroughly enjoyed catching up with old friends and making new ones. I can’t wait for next year’s conference at Miami University in Ohio, USA!