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Victoryinfocus

Withmoderneyetrackingtechnology,eyemovementscanbecloselymonitored,recordedandevaluated.Thisisespeciallydecisiveinfastsports.Why?DrClaudiaBornemannresearchesthisforservingintennis.

High-tech in the glasses: a camera records the eye movements of the tennis player.
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High-techintheglasses:acamerarecordstheeyemovementsofthetennisplayer.

Justafractionofasecond:athletesusuallydonthavemoretimethanthisduringamatchtomakeimportantdecisions.DrClaudiaBornemannstudiesexactlythisonemillisecondintennis.Usingeyetrackingtechnology,sheanalyseshowwellmenandwomencanfocusontheballwhentheiropponentisserving,andwhateffectthishasonthereturn,i.e.theprecisestrokebackintotheopponentscourt.Ultimately,bothdeterminevictoryordefeat.

Thehigh-techdevicethatBornemann,researchassociateattheInstituteforSportSciencesatKielUniversity,attachestotennisplayersforherstudyduringshorttennismatches,lookslikeapairofsportsglasses.Allthemenandwomenplayasprofessionals,andareinthetop100intheGermanrankings.Andthatmeans:theirservesarefast-veryfast.Themenserveatspeedsof180to220km/h,andtheladiesarealsoveryfastatbetween170and190km/h.

Inthepresentstudy,theballtookanaverageofjust0.8secondsfromservetoreturn."Atthisspeed,humansarenotabletofollowthesmall,yellowfeltballconstantlywiththeireyes,"explainedBornemann.However,keepinganeyeontheballaswellaspossibleisimportantforthesportsmenandsportswomen,becausetheyneedtoanticipate-basedonthetrajectory-whereitwilllandincourt.

Theyhavetomakedecisionsinmilliseconds,suchastosprinttothenet,lunge,andwiththerightstroke,placetheballperfectlyintheiropponentscourt.Ofcourse,experienceandintensivetraininghelp,asthesportsscientistalsoknowsfromstudiesinothersports.However,inherresearch,sheassumesthattop-leveltennisplayersareabletoreturntheballsuccessfully-evenatveryhighballspeeds-becausetheyareabletofocusontheballbrieflyduringitsshorttrajectory.Thestudyusingeyetrackingtechnologyshouldsupportthisthesis.

Claudia Bornemann.
pur.pur

ClaudiaBornemann.

Theglassesandtheconnectedmeasuringandanalysisequipmentmakeitpossibletorecordtherallyfromthepointofviewoftheplayers.Whiledoingso,thetechnologyreactstotheeyemovementofthetestsubjects."Inthevideos,itcanbeclearlyseenwheretheprosarelooking,"explainedstudentJonathanBruinenberg,whoevaluatedtherecordingsforhisBachelorsthesis.Itisevendifficultforustofollowthetrajectoryoftheball,andwecanwatchthevideoagainandagain,"heexplained.Therefore,heanalyseseachofthe60imagespersecondcapturedinslowmotion,andrecordsexactlywheretheplayersarelooking.Beforetheserve,sometimestheplayerslookattheiropponent,attimesthereisaquickglanceattheballboysandgirlsatthesideofthecourt,andsometimestheyinspecttheirracquet.

Butthereisfullconcentrationduringtheserveitself,asthefilmsshow.Eventhen,however,theeyesflickerbrieflytotherightandleft,andthusawayfromtheball."Thisisquitenormalbehaviour,"asBornemannexplains.Despitethat,theprofessionalsmanagetofocustheireyesonthefeltballagain."Sometimestheyseetheballbeforeoratthenet,sometimestheyonlyspotitwhenitlandsintheircourt-andsometimestheydontseeitatall,"addedBruinenberg.Inthatcase,theopponentusuallyservesanace,andwinsthepoint.

Theresultsofthefirststudiesalreadyshowthatmythinkingiscorrect,"saidBornemann.Nextspring,shewantstorepeattheexperimentusingamateurs,toenablecomparisons.ButtheGermanTennisFederation(DTB)hasalreadyexpressedkeeninterestintheanalysis."Maybe,thankstomystudies,therewillsoonbenewtrainingopportunities,withwhichprofessionalscanimprovetheirhand-eyecoordination,"ponderedthesportsscientist."Inanycase,itwouldbeanotherexcitingresearchapproach."

Author:JenniferRuske

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