Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Mechanical Engineering

An Eye-Opening Change for Sports Performance


What started as a way for U-M mechanical engineering Professor Noel Perkins to improve his fly casting can now be used by everyone from weekend athletes to professional tennis players under a deal between U-M and the Wilson Sporting Goods Co. The athletic equipment manufacturer has licensed U-M-owned patents on wireless motion sensor technology created in Perkins’ lab. The deal is expected to transform the sporting goods industry. “Coaches and trainers are relying on their naked eye to improve performance,” Perkins said. “Now you have technology that can measure motion to the nearest millisecond. No pun intended, but it’s an eye-opening change.”

Perkins found that by embedding wireless inertial sensors in sports equipment, he could record an enormous amount of useful information, often 6,000 pieces of data per second. His lab also developed algorithms that interpret those pieces of data that are of most interest to athletes and their coaches and to convey them in compelling formats. His research team is now moving beyond sports to explore applications in other areas such as healthcare and soldier training.

Read the Michigan News story