Mounir Zok, senior sports technologist for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), was researching how boxers moved during a match through video taken by an overhead camera suspended in a boxing ring, when he got an idea that evolved into a Colorado School of Mines field session project.
“We are constantly thinking about how can we help coaches and athletes make the best informed decision through current technology,” Zok said. “Because gymnasts are performing coded actions, their movements are ideal to be measured and analyzed.”
In December, Zok met Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professors Bill Hoff and Hao Zhang and computer science graduate student Brian Reily to observe male gymnasts and collect performance data with computer vision technology—a Microsoft Kinect v2 camera. The color camera uses a depth sensor and microphone array to sense the location and movements of people.
Within a few months, Reily was able to take their results to develop a method to track gymnasts and produce data on their performances.
“It was a great opportunity to collect a unique type of data. I'm working on human detection and pose estimation, and pretty much all existing data out there is collected in a lab,” said Reily. “Collecting this data and publishing it as a dataset would actually be pretty important just on it's own.”
Reily requested the help of four Mines students and USOC coaches to add features—such as tracking gymnasts to create useful data visualizations for both gymnasts and coaches. Computer science students Austin Kauffman, Zac McClain, Evan Balogh and Travis Johnson took Reily’s data to build an app that could record and analyze a routine, playback video, and provide performance statistics.
“I’ve always been interested in computer science and bioinformatics,” said McClain. “I would like to use this project to get into a more active area of computer science.”
The Computer Science field session team, advised by Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Teaching Associate Professor Christopher Painter-Wakefield, sees their app advancing in the future if more features could be added, such as color video playback, consistent frame rates and angle tracking.
“We’ve had students involved in our projects for the last year and a half. The engineering talent coming from Colorado School of Mines is helping us gain insights into some of our sports programs,” Zok said. “These students are scientifically prepared to face the challenge.” The USOC has also been working with Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Joel Bach and a senior design team to develop other technologies to help further athlete development and training.