Sharper algorithms = more air time = better stunts
Sometimes you need to think outside the box, or in the case of one engineering student, outside the season.
At UBC’s Okanagan campus, electrical engineering Master’s student Fazle Sadi faced the challenge of developing algorithms for a high-tech pair of ski goggles in the middle of summer.
So Sadi secured the instruments needed for his tests, stuffed them into a backpack and headed for the hills— literally—where he enlisted the aid of a volunteer mountain bike rider to simulate a snowboarder getting some air time.
The rider strapped on the instrument-laden backpack and took off from a hand-made dirt jump again and again so Sadi could get a series of readings.
Sadi is playing a key role in refining the technology in the already high-tech goggles featuring head-mounted display systems that could soon be the must-have item for skiers and snowboarders.
He is helping to optimize technology for Recon Instruments which makes head-mounted displays for ski and snowboard goggles. The system has GPS and motion sensors, giving users real-time feedback on their speed, altitude, vertical distance traveled and total distance traveled, as well as temperature, time, a stopwatch and a run-counter mode. The technology will also link via Bluetooth to the user’s smartphone, wireless video cameras and will boast navigation and buddy-tracking capabilities.
Working with Recon’s research team, Sadi is developing complex algorithms – to crunch data from sensors such as GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope and digital compass – that will make the goggle display systems even smarter. The goal is giving users instant and in-depth readouts on the height, drop and air time of each jump. For instance, snowboarders can immediately fine-tune their approach, take off and airborne technique to catch more air for better stunts.
“From a video, you can’t get accurate measurements and you have to wait a long time for that information. With the goggles, you have the information right away,” says Sadi. “It has a processor in it so it can compute everything right away.”
The work was funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through a $22,000 grant from NSERC Engage.
Richard Klukas, assistant professor at UBC’s School of Engineering and Sadi’s supervisor, says once the algorithms are shown to work as expected, they can be incorporated into the microprocessor contained in the goggles.
Recon Instruments has caught the attention of NASA for potential integration of their head-mounted displays in a new generation of spacesuits. Recon’s technology is being tested at NASA’s annual research and technology studies this autumn.
Recon Instruments was started in 2006 by Dan Eisenhardt, Fraser Hall and Darcy Hughes, MBA graduates from UBC’s Sauder School of Business, and Hamid Abdollahi, who was earning his Master’s in engineering at UBC.
“That’s why we understand the importance of gaining relevant experience throughout education and it is for this reason we work extensively with UBC,” says Abdollahi, Recon’s chief technology officer.
“The calibre of students from the university has been fantastic and they provide an integral part in the R&D of our technology,” says Abdollahi. “We have so far had over 10 research projects and internships with UBC in various research areas which in some cases, students were hired after completion of their research projects.”
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