A haptic snowboarding system uses vibrations to help teach the sport to newcomers by reminding their limbs how to pull off particular moves.
Sensor-equipped snowboards and suits were developed by Daniel Spelmezan of the Université Paris-Sud to provide a wearable assistant for use by snowboarders-in-training.
Spelmezan, whose work looks at how tactile instructions can be used in physical activity, was particularly interested in snowboarding because the nature of the sport means the instructor must be separated from the student while they are performing the moves and is unable to give any hands-on corrections.
Pressure sensors built into the snowboard detected the rider’s weight distribution and worked out the riding edge. When the sensors detected the rider switching from frontside to backside they triggered a set of vibrating actuators positioned against the thigh and shoulders. The vibrations reminded the rider of the correct posture to use when attempting the manoeuvre.
Feedback from snowboarding students suggested that the wearable instructions were useful in learning moves but that correcting too many errors at once creates a sensory overload. With that in mind, Spelmezan concludes that the system would work best if the instructor could program it to focus on correcting the single most important error.
Spelmezan is also hoping to develop the haptic snowboarding setup further to enable it to distinguish between correct moves and mistakes, only providing prompts when the students get their posture wrong.