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Laser technology to aid judges in gymnastic scoring

The Japan Gymnastics Association and Japanese technology giant Fujitsu are set to collaborate on the development of a laser system for supporting faster and more accurate judging during gymnastics competitions.

The development of the laser device will involve the use of Fujitsu Laboratories' 3D laser sensors and 3D data processing technology – to discern athletes’ joint position and technique – and the Japan Gymnastics Association's expertise in recognising proper gymnastics techniques.

In gymnastics, points are awarded through a panel of judges. However, with the rapid advance of gymnastic techniques – such as the number of twists – there are times when it is difficult to accurately judge, and score, a performance with the naked eye. As a result, judges face an escalating burden of making accurate split-second scoring decisions. In addition to judgements made through visual observation, the use of ICT to capture a gymnast's movements, which are then analysed as numerical data, could work to support more accurate scoring.

Motion capture technology has already been used widely for analysing human movements; however, it often requires placing multiple markers on the subject, which would burden a gymnast, and therefore not be practical for competitive sport. 3D laser sensors, however, are able to capture human movements in three dimensions without having to attach anything to the athlete.

By capturing movements with 3D laser sensors, and using the 3D data this generates to recognise an athlete's joint position and the techniques performed, the researchers seek to derive the numerical data needed to judge competitions, and create technology that supports judges' scoring decisions.

Fujitsu Laboratories will compare the numerical data obtained from the 3D sensors with athletes registered with the Japan Gymnastics Association, which will in turn provide expertise in gymnastics technique recognition and scoring knowledge to match this data to a validated scoring system.

Fujitsu’s 3D laser sensor technology uses micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) control technology, which adjusts the viewing angle automatically in accordance with the location of the person, and maintains a good resolution from a distant location. These MEMS sensors overcome the challenges of conventional 3D laser sensors, such as not allowing for control of the viewing angle in accordance with distance or movements, and a low resolution at greater distances.

For the joint position recognition technology, the company is also using a new inferring method of applying the optimal form of a joint position to the 3D data. Both technologies will be further refined to work with the movements of gymnastics techniques and thereby create technology to help with scoring.

When this technology is developed, in addition to reducing the burden on judges in the face of increasingly complex and sophisticated gymnastics techniques, it is also expected to reduce the time required for scoring in competitions, benefitting both athletes and spectators. The technology is also anticipated to be useful beyond gymnastics and other judging system-based competitions.

‘I would like to see the deployment of Japan's technological capabilities lead to improvements in the performances of gymnasts and the quality of judges, raising the level of gymnastics techniques and the attractiveness of gymnastics as we look toward the Tokyo 2020,’ commented Daichi Suzuki the first commissioner of the Japan Sports Agency ‘I am also hopeful that collaboration between the sports world and corporations, such as in bringing together sports and ICT, will bring greater dynamism to the sports industry.’

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