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Haptic Interfaces for Real-Time Athletic Performance

A crew team rows under a bridge on a river in the winter
Photo: Danny Reise / Washington University
Partnering with the WashU Rowing Club, researchers from the Sam Fox School and McKelvey School of Engineering will investigate how active haptic feedback might transmit performance data without screens or visual overlays during athletic training.

Project Overview

This yearlong pilot project will involve transmitting performance data during athletic training, partnering with the WashU Rowing Club.

The team will develop applications for existing wearable devices and strategies for novel technologies that focus on bespoke haptic patterns, intensities, and locations to create complex communication structures. Evaluation criteria will focus on technical specifications and user criteria.

Intended Outcomes

Outcome 1

  • The study will provide proof of concept for methodologies in haptic interfaces using existing devices and sensors.

Outcome 2

  • The replicable framework will include technology-focused facets such as biosensor monitoring, haptic interfaces, user-centered design metrics, and potential pathways to abstract study findings to commercial and clinical uses.

Outcome 3

  • The pilot will also provide the initial investment in developing a library of clinically proven haptic feedback strategies based on specific user typologies and effective intervention types.

Outcome 4

  • Long-term, the team and collaborators can augment the repository with different sensory modalities (sonic, brainwave stimulation, mechanoreception, smell, etc.) to shorten cycle times for the predictive efficacy of new sensory interface strategies.

Project Timeline

Spring 2023: Lab Initiation

Working with the Sam Fox School’s Office of Research and Innovation, build a team of experts from across WashU and develop funding sources.

Summer 2023: Asset Development

Build assets and resources, apply for funding, and establish foundations of the project, including developing a toolkit of initial protocols for testing haptic patterns.

Fall 2023: UX & User Research

Conduct user research about athletes’ current experience with wearables and applications used for training. Partner with WashU Rowing to observe athletes in training facilities and on the water. This research will influence the design of a series of prototype applications that develop custom haptic and audio patterns that translate key data to athletes.

Spring 2024: Prototype Development & Testing

Conduct a series of prototyping and testing phases to evaluate and tweak modules. Using quantitative data and qualitative feedback, develop a series of sensory modules with a high success rate as proof of concept for expansion into more complex environments.

Research Team

Research Assistants

  • Gabe Herman, BS ‘25
  • Alice Mao, BS '25