Researchers are looking into the effects of support and cheering on athletes’ performances and developing remote solutions for when audiences cannot be in attendance.
The Heartlink project has engineered a vest that runners wear which links them to social media and allows their followers to offer their support online.The project started off as a collaboration between the Dr Franco Curmi from the University of Malta and Lancaster University. During a marathon, the vest worn by the athlete transmits the athlete’s vitals to social media, giving a window of insight of his state to his followers. An algorithm developed by the researchers then detects when the athlete is struggling and, nudges friends to cheer them on.
The algorithm works by gathering data from biometric sensors found on the vest, and by means of a neural network, that can understand what the athlete is feeling. Furthermore, data from social networks helped determine how cheering could be communicated. Thanks to an app that the athlete and their followers can download, sounds and vibrations are used to communicate support.
Heartlink was tested at various races across the UK, having spectators around the world. The app was found to be most powerful during charity events and when the athletes were cheered on by their acquaintances.
Now, the next step is to roll the app out to a wider audience. The researcher’s vision is to make Heartlink a household name, improve the relationship between the spectators and athletes, all the while raising money for good causes.