There have been many discussions lately about how developments in technology – particularly in automation – might displace humans in the workplace. Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) have seen increased demand since the COVID-19 pandemic forced humans to practice strict safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus. More companies employ robots to carry out warehouse work and AI for information technology (IT) services. This information seems even more daunting when you recall that many workers face unemployment due to the pandemic.

But let’s shift the conversation to something more positive. Let’s talk about how advanced technologies can complement human skills and capabilities in sports.

The 20th century saw many big technological advancements in sports. From the innovation of better sports equipment such as titanium golf clubs and composite tennis racquets to improving the playing field such as Zambonis and tennis court resurfacing for better player experience.

Related: The 20 Biggest Tech Advancements in Sports History

Let’s take a look at sports applications of wearable technology, virtual reality, and neuroscience.

Wearable technology

To more accurately determine the effects and scope of physical exertions, trainers and physicians need to collect biomechanical data. Wearable technology or wearables makes it possible to track biomechanics without limiting movement that is required of the athlete nor the setting or location in which they can function.

Today’s most popular wearables include fitness trackers or smartwatches such as the FitBit, the Apple Watch, and Samsung Galaxy Watch. These are popular among professional athletes and even non-athletes who want to track their fitness data. Fitness trackers boast many features, including heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, food and hydration logging, and calorie burn counting. The Apple Watch Series 6, the product’s latest model, now has an app to measure blood oxygen levels. Many regard their smartwatches as fitness partners or even personal trainers.

An even more impressive innovation in wearable technology is smart sports clothing. Athos, the world’s brand of smart sports clothing, is one such example. Athos uses electromyography (EMG) to measure and improve the performance of the wearer’s muscle groups. The fabric of Athos apparel contains high-tech motion sensors that can analyze the wearer’s form, muscle activation, and muscle contribution. The feedback then helps athletes and trainers to optimize their precision and exertion to maximize the effectiveness of different moves and promote muscle health.

Related: The Next Big Thing in Sports? Clothes That Give You Perfect Form

VR

Virtual reality (VR)

This branch of automation helps athletes fine-tune both their physical and mental capabilities. The NFL is known for incorporating VR in their training process. VR simulates real game conditions, allowing players to practice away from the football field and significantly reduce injury risk. Other sports industries that benefit from using VR include golf, basketball, soccer, and even NASCAR.

Neuroscience

Because the brain is significantly involved in our physical movement, it’s only right to include neuroscience, which studies the brain and nervous system, in sports technology.

Halo Neuroscience provides a program that gives athletes a mental warm-up for training and tournaments. The Halo program is based on neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to learn through the formation of new connections. It also claims to help with sports and muscle building and other skills, such as music. It is backed by several studies that report positive results regarding its role in improving performance and endurance.

What the sports industry is getting right about technology use

In other industries, technological advancements are a threat to the livelihood of humans who work jobs in bookkeeping, administration, data encoding, and even warehouse work. But what technology in sports and fitness is getting right is that it’s advancing to enhance humans’ performance. This is because humans are the players in sports, so they will always have a position in that field. The goal that we should work towards is the co-existence of humans and technology. One should not displace the other, but both should work together and complement each other.

Advanced technology shows promising applications in many industries, particularly in sports and fitness, where it is being used to enhance human performance. Wearables, virtual reality, and neuroscience are just a few high-tech hardware and software applications in sports. As these developments are still in their early stages, it will be interesting to see what other applications we can think of to aid human performance, not just in sports but also in other skill fields.

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