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November 28, 2009

Template Feedback of Athletic Force and Movement Patterns

By Rob Kall

Over 30 years ago, I developed a concept of using transducers and sensors to convert athletic force and movement patterns into electrical activity that could be used for biofeedback. Things have come a long way since then.


This article reports on research and development I did over 30 years ago. Since that time a number of devices have become available. Perhaps most successful have been the video games that use movement patterns as part of the games. My hope, by reprinting this article, is to inspire others to consider new technologies developed since the writing of this article and how they can be used to train athletes and performers.
rob kall


This study explored the value of the use of augmented sensory feedback in facilitating the learning of an improvement of performance of athletic movements.

Skiers at all skill levels were tested with a pressure-sensitive device which monitored the pattern of timing, weight placement, and shifting from one foot to the other, essential were transduced into audio displays.
Key movements produced reproducible audio signatures.

All levels of skiers, including instructors, were able to use these audio signatures as audio templates, which they would memorize and then try to match, using the appropriate movements. The different skill groups utilized the feedback in different ways, but they all found it useful.

All levels of skiers, including instructors, were able to use these audio signatures as audio templates, which they would memorize and then try to match, using the appropriate movements. The different skill groups utilized the feedback in different ways, but they all found it useful.

By producing movements that produced the same audio template, they were able to identify key biomechanical vectors and were able to match the instructors movements with little intervening verbal or visualizing cognitive distraction. It is suggested that this training approach is neuromuscularly more efficient, in that audio templates are more closely linked to the essential biomechanical vectors. This allows for more specificity in training and learning.

This approach to movement training has wide application for sports and industry. This study suggests the value of further study and quantification of template training and performance.


Presented at the ANNUAL MEETING OF
By Robert A. Kall

In athletics, movements which are very simple to do can be extremely difficult to verbalize and conceptualize. Learning a specific new movement pattern entails successively approximating one's movements with one's comceptual idea of the movements.

Current training techniques require that the teacher observe the athlete directly and/or via films and/or computer simulations of his/her movements, make a qualitative judgement about the movement, and then provide verbal or illustrative feedback about needed movement modifications. Thinking through these movements either visually or verbally is at best difficult, at worst, in light of recent findings about the competitively inhibiting, lateralized verbal/visual-spatial nature of the brain, inhibitory of maximal neuromuscular efficiency and interaction.
Natural sensory and proprioceptive feedback are essential for learning new movement patterns. But almost any movement in athletics requires a gestalt awareness of almost all the musculoskeletal activity of the body. It is difficult to integrate and process all the raw proprioceptive and sensory data fed back when novel movement patterns are attempted.

This study suggests that complex behaviors and patterns of behavior, particularly movement, can be transduced and interpreted into more conveniently perceivable cognitive-sensory modes through augmente sensory feedback.
In athletics, force and angular displacement can be transduced and reduced to a simple audio, visual or vibrotactile feedback display. For example, increases in pressure or joint angle can be transduced into tones which vary in pitch.

In this preliminary study, skiing movements were transduced using a portable, pressure responsive monitor.
The proper pattern of timing, weight placement and shifting from one foot to the other is essential for good skiing.

The small, transistor radio sized fedback device used could be worn on a belt, with the transducers laced at different sites inside the ski boot and worn while skiing.
Changes in pressure were translated into a positively correlated increase or decrease in pitch. A threshold could be set for the minimum pressure that would activate the auditory feedback.

This study only looked at the feasibility of recording a reproducible audio template of specific, correctly patterned movements, and the applicability of those templates to athletic training.

The device was evaluated on beginner, novice, intermediate and instructor level skiers. No quantitative measurements were recorded due to the early, exploratory nature of the study. Qualitative responses from the skiers and instructors formed the basis for conclusions made in the study.

Ski instructors were first fitted with a monitor in each boot. The audio output for certain ski movements was recorded. This was used as an audio signature for those movements. The signature was given as a template to the beginner, novice and intermediate skiers. They memorized the template and learned that it was the sound they were to aim at reproducing with the correct sounding audio signature, they also used it as a template for themselves.
Once the audio pattern of the template is learned, the matching process is a cognitive one. This helps focus attention on key movement and pressure shift vectors, and this way, errors re transduced into sounds which provide extra information the athlete can use to correct movement strategies.

Results: For all skiers, it was possible, using the audio template, to simulate skiing motion indoors. It was found that the template produced by the instructors is easily reporduced in the living room or lodge. Then, when attempted outdoors, under the much more stressful conditions on the slope, template matching becomes more difficult. When the skier's movements produce the audio match to the template, the skier experiences a deja-vu like feeling, since the indoor practice is fially experienced in-vivo.

Instructors and skiers at all levels report tht they found the feedback useful, though the use of the feedback varied considerably among the different skill ranges. The instructors reported that for themselves, the feedback "kept them honest," reminding them when they didn't maintain the proper pattern of pressure shifting and timing. They used the feedback to fine-tune their movements.

Beginners and novices found the indoor simulation to be valuable. Instructors working with the less skilled groups would also wear a feedback to fine-tune monitor, and would model movements, at the same time pointing out the audio templates the beginners should look for.
Intermediate skiers reported that the feedback was very helpful in correcting bad habits and in understanding what their errors were. They also used the template of the instructor to improve their overall movement.

Discussion: The idea of template training has previously been applied clinically for facial muscle rehabilitation and speech therapy. The equipment used in this study was designed originally for use in physical rehabilitative medicine. The potential for the use of template training in athletics, industry, and anywhere that patterns of behavior can be transduced is very large.
Further study and quantitative analysis needs to be done on basic template patterns, their reproducibility, effect on learning, and the effects of individual differences. It seems though, that force and movement feedback will be less affected by individual differences (musculoskeletal) than muscle action template pattern feedback.
Other transducers, such as joint angle monitors, and strain gauges (to monitor suponation/pronation) and other display modes should also be evaluated.

Authors Bio:

One theme has run through my work for the past 40 plus years-- a desire to play a role in waking people up, raising their consciousness and empowering them.
I was the organizer founder of the Winter Brain, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology and StoryCon Meetings and president of Futurehealth, Inc., with interests in Positive Psychology as well as being involved in the field of biofeedback/neurofeedback since 1972.
see my more detailed bio, reflecting my work in biofeedback, here.

In 2003 I founded , where I've written over 1800 articles and have published over 100,000 other people's writings, with the goal of raising people's consciousness in political and activist ways.