Video system analyses and develops boxers’ performance

British boxers are hoping new performance analysis technology could help propel them to victory at the 2012 Olympics.

The video-capture system, developed at Sheffield Hallam University, allows coaches and sports analysts to develop training and fight strategies by accessing performance data and watching footage of future opponents.

Boxers who use the system tend to win around eight out of 10 bouts compared to a normal average of around five out of 10, according to project leader and English Institute of Sport (EIS) performance analyst Rob Gibson.

‘It’s about supporting the coaches with objective data,’ he told The Engineer. ‘We use the videos and data very heavily at tournaments to create strategy and tactics. We’ve now got information on 17,000 boxers worldwide.’

Members of Britain’s amateur competition team, GB Boxing, including Olympic gold medal winner James DeGale, have used and helped develop the system over the last 18 months.

GB Boxing, which funded the technology’s development in partnership with Sheffield Hallam and UK Sport, now hopes it will play a key role in preparing its boxers for the World Championships later this year and the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The system consists of high-resolution video cameras, a powerful computer program to collate video footage with related data about each fight and boxer, and ringside touch-screen monitors that allow coaches to quickly call up the information they need.

As well as designing a system that could process and store terabytes of data, the Sheffield team had to create a fast and simple user interface, said Steve Haake, director of Sheffield Hallam’s Centre for Sports Engineering Research.

‘The coach wants to be coach, not playing around with a keyboard, so it’s go to be as automatic as possible,’ he said.

‘We have very sophisticated image-tracking algorithms in our software, but all the coaches need is the key performance indicator, for example, distance travelled around the ring.’

The technology was developed for amateur boxing, in which fighters have to score points based on the number of clean punches landed, and helps a boxer develop a strategy for increasing their point score against a specific opponent.

‘Some of the things we’re looking at are to do with points dynamics,’ said Gibson. ‘Where are the points scored during the bout? What are the gold medallists doing? What are we doing compared to them?

‘Then we’re looking at punch efficiency. How many punches are thrown for a point to be scored? And if a point isn’t scored why not?’

The team have produced similar technology for a number of other sports such as diving. They now hope to develop the boxing system to provide predictive analysis in an attempt to anticipate boxers’ moves under specific conditions.