Swimming Sonification – Training with the Help of Sound

Swimming Sonification –Training with the Help of Sound

Interactive, real-time sonification for swimming & aquatic sports

Motivation Swimming Sonification –Training with the Help of Sound Photo: CITEC/Universität Bielefeld
Elite swimmers competing today in the national team and in leagues at the national level all have a comparable  level of physical fitness and conditioning. Their training schedule is so optimized that additional practice cannot be squeezed into their already packed schedules. Swimmers must therefore work to further refine their swimming technique in order to leave competitors in their wake.

The objective of the project is to use sonification technology to expand swimmers’ perception and awareness of the water – and their movements in it. Sonification is a process in which measured data values are systematically converted into audible sounds and noises. Swimmers see the movements of their hands. They also feel how the water glides over their hands, and they sense how quickly they are moving forward. However, the majority of swimmers are not very aware of one significant factor: how the pressure exerted by the flow of displaced water on their bodies changes. If during their training swimmers were to take into account the pressure of water flows, they could enhance their feel for the water. This, in turn, would help them to swim with the least possible amount of resistance and drag. The new technology measures and sonifies water flow pressure – in real time – and is designed to complement an athlete’s training program.

Swimming Sonification
This system includes two gloves with thin hose ends that serve as pressure sensors and are secured between the fingers. The swimmer wears these gloves during practice. The hoses are linked to a measuring instrument, which is currently connected to the swimmer via a line while he or she is swimming. The measuring device transmits data about water flow pressure to a laptop. A custom-made software then sonifies the data, meaning that it turns the information into sound. During repeated hand strokes, for instance, the system can make rising and sinking pressure audible as increasing or decreasing tonal pitches. Other settings that sonify things like symmetry or consistency can also be activated as needed. The sounds are transmitted to the swimmer in real time over headphones. When the swimmer modifies a movement, he hears live how this also changes the sound. With the sonification of water flows, the swimmer can now practice the front crawl in way that, for instance, both hands displace the water masses with the same water flow form – to do this, the swimmer just has make sure that he generates the same sound with each hand. Because the coach also hears the sounds over speakers, he can base the instructions he gives not only on the movements he observes, but also on the sounds generated by the swimmer and their rhythm (e.g. “Move your hands so that the sound goes up faster). In a practical workshop, professional swimmers tested the system out and confirmed that it indeed helped them to optimize their swimming technique. Swim teams at the PSV Eindhoven (Philips Sports Union Eindhoven) in the Netherlands tested the new system out for two months and used it as part of their training. The PSV swim club competes in the top swimming league in the Netherlands.

Funded by
CITEC, the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology of Bielefeld University. CITEC is part of the Excellence Initiative (EXC 277) funded by the federal and state governments of Germany.

Funding Amount
Approximately Euro 25,000

Project Duration
January 2012 – present

Participating Organizations
Department of Information Engineering, University of Pisa

Dr. Thomas Hermann, Bielefeld University
Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC)
Telephone: +49 521 106-12140, Email: thermann@techfak.uni-bielefeld.de

Dr. Bodo Ungerechts, Bielefeld University
Faculty of Psychology and Sports Science / Department of Sports Science
Telephone: +49 521 106-67292, Email: bodo.ungerechts@uni-bielefeld.de

Project Swimming Sonification: http://cit-ec.de/ami/swimson