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Overview

This one day hybrid conference brought together stakeholders from across the sports industry to explore the cutting-edge advances and innovations that are enabling humans and machines to operate ever closer to peak functional and mechanical capacity.

This Royal Society conference brought together stakeholders from across industry, academia and competitive sport to explore how cutting-edge advances and innovations in data, modelling, simulation, and design engineering are enabling humans and machines to operate ever closer to peak functional and mechanical capacity. Talks included case studies from Formula 1, high-performance sport and Paralympic engineering, and will discuss the key scientific, translational and commercial opportunities and challenges of the coming decade within the elite and everyday sporting industries.

The conference concluded with a panel discussion to consider debates around ethics, accessibility, and how scientific and technical challenges and research gaps might be addressed to drive continued interdisciplinary innovation.

About the conference series

This scientific meeting is part of the Royal Society’s Transforming our Future conference series. These meetings are unique, high-level events that address the scientific and technical challenges of the next decade. Each conference features cutting edge science from industry and academia and brings together leading experts from the scientific community, including regulatory, charity and funding bodies.

 

Organisers

Schedule

09:10-09:15
Welcome and opening remarks

Speakers

Dame Sue Ion GBE FREng FRS

Chair of the Royal Society Science, Industry and Translation Committee

09:15-09:55
Keynote address

Speakers


Chair

Professor Alan Wilson FRS

Royal Veterinary College

09:55-10:15
Setting the scene: challenges and opportunities around data acquisition and usage within elite sport

Abstract

Triathlon, like many other sports, is professionalising at a rapid rate. To remain competitive at the highest level, athletes and coaches need to constantly assess and revaluate their training methods and approaches. The collection and appropriate use of data in training and racing is one way of ensuring that athletes benefit from a strong, objective understanding of their performance and athletic projection.

Beth will set out her current ambitions and lacunae associated with her data collection needs. She will discuss the areas in which industry is currently well-placed to support elite athletes and to help address some of the most important issues around data acquisition and interpretation. Beth will provide insight into a range of challenges faced on a day-to-day basis in this area and will offer some thoughts as to how methodologies and debates around data may develop over the next decade.

Speakers

Beth Potter

UK Triathlon

10:15-10:35
Wearable technologies: looking to the future

Abstract

Today, smartwatches collect more sensor data than ever before, both directly and indirectly. This data is then fed into algorithms that can determine elite sports training load, recovery applications, casual user sleep recommendations, and even automatically notify emergency services in the event of an accident. How these inbound sensor flows work together to form the basis of sports and fitness recommendations is both interesting and important. Not all sensor data is created equally (both in terms of definition, as well as quality from company to company) and this makes things challenging.

In this talk Ray will explore both the failures and successes of sport and fitness-related algorithms and recommendation engines over the last ten years, and the potential directions in the next decade. He will discuss whether or not fitness platforms scale well when going from mass market to Olympian levels, and inversely, where companies are taking elite level applications and focussing them on the broader consumer. While addressing these subjects, Ray will consider the future direction of sensor gathering, sensor connectivity and the algorithms sensors feed.

 

Speakers

Ray Maker

DC Rainmaker


Chair

Professor Alan Wilson FRS

Royal Veterinary College

11:05-11:25
How to improve data acquisition and quality: future challenges and opportunities

Speakers

Professor Marek Ziebart

University College London

11:25-11:45
Sounding out health and fitness with wearable and earable data

Abstract

Cardiorespiratory fitness is one of the strongest known predictors of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and is inversely associated with many health outcomes such as metabolic disease and mortality. This talk will explore our research on developing machine learning models using wearables data to estimate cardiorespiratory fitness in the wild and for large populations. It will also discuss our efforts to improve the detection of signals linked to cardiorespiratory fitness within ear wearables and in particular with the use of in-ear microphones, already embedded in many commonly used EarPods. The talk will concentrate on research in the direction of discerning step counts and gait as well as heart and respiratory signals using these methods. Challenges and opportunities of these technologies will be also discussed throughout.

Speakers

Professor Cecilia Mascolo

University of Cambridge

11:45-12:05
Optimised performance for all: the opportunities and challenges of consumer wearables

Abstract

Optimising human performance is a universal goal. Everyone wants to improve, whether they are an elite athlete after precious milliseconds, a weekend warrior trying to stay fit, or an executive giving a keynote. Technology plays an ever-increasing role in this optimisation, but the challenges for an elite athlete are very different to those for the average person. This talk will explore some of the problems Rob has observed in developing and deploying consumer wearable technologies to measure and improve the health and wellbeing of the everyday person.

A careful path must be trodden between acquiring the sensor data needed and the commercial realities of battery life and cost. The luxuries of high-fidelity data at optimal body sites are not available and the need for everything to work for everyone (tall, short, heavy, light) makes the problem extremely challenging. Rob will discuss how as a community we must think not only about using wearables to record data that have traditionally been measured, but also how we can record new measurements and their potential value. Core to progress in this domain will be big data, and this talk will touch on how Google's machine learning expertise is enabling this. 

Speakers

Professor Robert Harle

Google Fitbit

12:05-12:30
Q&A and panel discussion

Speakers

Beth Potter

UK Triathlon

Ray Maker

DC Rainmaker

Professor Cecilia Mascolo

University of Cambridge

Professor Robert Harle

Google Fitbit

Professor Marek Ziebart

University College London

13:20-13:35
Engineering the UK's first artificial luge track: Todholm Primary School

Abstract

Students aged 9-11 from Todholm Primary School, Paisley, Renfrewshire, will talk about how they helped to design and develop the UK's first artificial luge track through a partnership with the Royal Society, the Royal Navy Luge Team, and a team of honours and MEng students from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) under the leadership of Dr Patricia Muñoz-Escalona (School of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment), funded by a Royal Society Partnership Grant. GCU is especially committed to advancing gender equality across all of its STEM subjects through activities developed to inspire future generations of women into rewarding careers in this area, and has been ranked fourth in the world for Gender Equality in the latest Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings.

A luge is a one- to two-person sled ridden in a supine, forward-facing position. This project formed part of a wider initiative led by David Rigmand (Depute Head Teacher, Todholm Primary School, and one of the winners of the 2020 Primary Science Teacher Awards) who received a Royal Society Partnership Grant in 2018 to support STEM activities in schools across Renfrewshire over a period of several years. Commander Christopher David Pinder, Royal Navy STEM/UTC (University Technical Colleges) Lead, and Lt Commander Emma Miles provided additional support through STEM engagement activities to reinforce and contextualise the teaching and learning.

This successful partnership has enabled pupils to learn first-hand about scientific investigation and problem solving and has exposed them to some of the skills required for a range of engineering careers. The GCU students have likewise developed their experience in education outreach, public engagement and communication. The finished track was delivered to the Royal Navy’s luge team in June 2022 and may be used to help the GB Luge Team prepare for the Winter Olympics in 2026.


Chair

Professor Philip Bond FREng

Council for Science and Technology

13:35-13:55
Modelling and simulation in Olympic and Paralympic sport: generating performance gains for our athletes

Abstract

The English Institute of Sport is the largest single provider of world-class science, medicine, technology and engineering services within the sport sector to Olympic and Paralympic sports in the UK.

This talk will explore the role that modelling and simulation can play to help athletes and sport continue to excel on the world stage, the opportunities it can bring and the challenges faced when applying technology in Olympic and Paralympic environments.

Speakers

Naomi Stenhouse

English Institute of Sport

13:55-14:15
Data and telemetry: lessons from Formula 1 and motorsport

Abstract

Formula 1 is the ultimate technical competition. Set across a global stage and appealing to millions of fans, 10 teams compete against each other 22 times a year, each striving to win the Drivers and Constructors World Championships. The performance of the cars themselves is as important as the team driving them. Behind the drivers are engineers responsible for delivering performance successes within restrictive regulations.

In this talk, Ben will explore the main performance drivers of a modern F1 car and will offer an insight into how teams and their engineers utilise data and telemetry to overcome this scientific challenge of racing. Ben will also discuss how this leads to success on the racetrack, and where opportunities exist to leverage innovations from other fields, such as machine learning. He will analyse how motorsport might deploy these techniques to improve performance through a deeper understanding of both the car and its driver.

Speakers

Ben Waterhouse

Red Bull Technology

14:15-14:35
The quest for aerodynamic gains in Olympic sport

Abstract

This presentation will focus on the quest for aerodynamic gains for Olympic sport. The speeds and scales of many sports mean that flow regimes are often in the transitional zone, making it very challenging for current computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools. Additionally, almost all sports involve movement and fabrics, which make the aerodynamics challenge even harder. The interaction of fabric with flow transition and marginally inconsistent movement also creates complex challenges for repeatability.

So far, solutions have involved a combination of tools, from reduced physics CFD to wind tunnel and controlled physical testing. Event simulation and parametric optimisation are also used in the search for improved performance.

No one approach offers a panacea. In this talk, Rob will discuss how using a blend of tools and methods is the most effective and prudent approach, and how trading off weaknesses and strengths of these methods will contribute to improved future Olympic aerodynamic equipment. Future developments of experimental measurement of the mechanical efficiency of swimming and other techniques for non-invasive visualisation of boundary layers will also be discussed.

Speakers

Rob Lewis OBE

TotalSim

14:35-14:55
Collaborate to innovate – the journey of the sit ski programme

Abstract

This talk will discuss the story of a two-year development programme of an innovative sit ski design. Created from the ground up for the GB Snowsports Cross Country team, the programme culminated in the team competing at the 2022 Beijing Paralympics.

Paul will discuss how collaboration between commercial and academic organisations was key to the success of the programme, together with active involvement from the athletes themselves. He will also reflect upon how this technology is likely to develop over the coming decade.

Speakers

Paul McNamara

Williams Advanced Engineering


Chair

Professor Philip Bond FREng

Council for Science and Technology

15:20-15:40
Using 3D printing to improve the design and performance of sporting equipment

Abstract

Broadly speaking, sports equipment is evolving at a rate that is limited by the manufacturing technology of the time. It is not unusual that scientists, engineers and inventors develop a design that offers real performance advantage, but the manufacturing methods or materials available hinder bringing the design to life. The step-change occurs when a new manufacturing method or material becomes a viable option. One example is when carbon fibre composites started replacing tubular metallic structures. Another is 3D printing.

3D printing, while not new, is still relatively underused in sports equipment. The combination of digital 3D design, AI (applied to customisation applications) and generative design, simulation (Finite Elements Analysis (FEA), Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), kinematics and distortion prediction) allows us to produce designs that are impossible to make using classic manufacturing methods such as computer numerical control (CNC) machining, casting or extrusion. With 3D printing, a whole series of novel features can be introduced to a design such as aerodynamics, structural reinforcements, cooling, and mass customisation.

In this talk, Dimitris will discuss how 3D printing has already had an effect on current sporting performance and how it is expected to keep developing as we improve our understanding of what is possible.

Speakers

Dimitris Katsanis

Metron Additive Engineering

15:40-16:00
Aligning the virtual with reality: The evolution and challenges of simulation in the America's Cup

Abstract

The arrival of hydro-foiling in the America's Cup ten years ago dramatically increased the speed, complexity and jeopardy involved in competitive sailing.

Ever since, simulation has been at the heart of the design process as teams try to understand trade-offs between speed, control, manoeuvrability, energy usage and the human-machine interface. These trade-offs are operating in an extreme environment where the implications of an error are often more significant than just losing a race; design teams must take this into account.

James will talk about the evolution of simulation in the sport, focussing on the major design and simulation challenges of recent cups and how they have been approached in the quest for sailing's most prestigious trophy.

Speakers

James Roche

NeuralAlpha

16:00-16:20
Q&A and panel discussion

Speakers

Rob Lewis OBE

TotalSim

Naomi Stenhouse

English Institute of Sport

James Roche

NeuralAlpha

Paul McNamara

Williams Advanced Engineering

Ben Waterhouse

Red Bull Technology

Dimitris Katsanis

Metron Additive Engineering


Chair

Prof Steve Haake OBE

Sheffield Hallam University

16:20-17:10
Panel discussion: ethics, accessibility, interdisciplinary collaboration and translation for societal benefit

Speakers

Dr Bryce Dyer

University of Bournemouth

Henry White

BAE Systems

Naomi McGregor

Movetru

Jade Cation

London Sport


Chair

Dame Sue Ion GBE FREng FRS

Chair of the Royal Society Science, Industry and Translation Committee

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