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Technology and design for prevention, health and sport

Active³ - Everyone, Everywhere, Everyday

06 February 2024 — 5 minutes read

The study of sports performance can activate an interdisciplinary combination of new technologies, design, medicine and wellness. This synergy not only has a positive impact on the health of the individual, but also permeates several sectors and has become a crucial area for the implementation of advanced technological solutions.
The Active³ Project was created with the aim of promoting an active lifestyle as a tool for wellness and prevention, as well as promoting accessibility and inclusion in the practice of sport.

A prime example of the convergence of technology, design and wellness is wearable technologies, which have taken on a prominent role in our daily lives in recent years and have found fertile ground in the sports arena. The development of devices such as smartwatches, fitness and activity trackers, as well as more complex systems based on sensor networks, has outlined a scenario in which real-time data collection has become crucial.

Wearable devices present themselves as useful tools for detailed measurement of athletic performance, monitoring gestures and movements during training. These devices not only help to improve physical performance, but also provide a rich corpus of valuable data for scientific studies.

The convergence of immersive technologies, represented by VR/AR/XR (Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality/eXtended Reality) systems, and the world of sports has also ushered in a new era of individual and group training that transcends the physical limitations of playing fields. These devices, such as helmets, visors, and goggles, enable immersive experiences that blend the real and virtual worlds. The applications of such systems range from understanding team game strategies to the performance of the human locomotor system, as well as facilitating global or specific strengthening exercises and rehabilitation of specific body parts.

Wearable Devices and Augmented Reality

The processing and interpretation of big data from VR/AR/XR systems is supported by digital analytics technologies. Artificial intelligence algorithms have been developed to optimize gestures and strategies, contributing significantly to individual and team training and coaching. Real-time human figure segmentation and extraction algorithms enable detailed performance analysis.

In addition to the direct application in the world of sports for treatment, prevention and training, the collected data and their analysis can also be used decisively in the medical field. The multifactorial analysis of the athletic gesture, both kinematically (the movement of body parts) and dynamically (the forces involved, such as reactions to the ground or impacts and interactions with tools, from balls to shoes to rowing oars) and muscularly (thanks to the use of sensors that record the electrical activity related to muscle contraction), is able to provide a very accurate and integrated view that finds wide application in medicine for neuro-motor diagnosis, evaluation and rehabilitation.

Big Data and Artificial Intelligence in Sports Training and Medicine

The Politecnico di Milano has played a major role in international scientific research, contributing to the development of products and services for health and well-being, with a concrete impact on the daily lives of patients and their families.

A human-centered design approach in which the needs of the individual and the dialogue with the patient lead to the design and creation of innovative products, useful in everyday life as well as in medicine, never neglecting the dimension of beauty and ease of use, cornerstones of the good practices of Italian design.

Design for Health

Design for Health is a constantly evolving field that has a direct impact on the quality of life of individuals and is of relevant social and inclusive value.

The Active³ project

Taking place today, Tuesday, February 6, 2024, at the Lecco Territorial Pole, the presentation of the Active³ - Everyone, Everywhere, Everyday App, and the recruitment of clinical trial participants.
The design-for-health project, selected and funded by Fondazione Cariplo and Regione Lombardia with a total contribution of 3.5 million euros, is coordinated by Univerlecco and involves Politecnico di Milano (Lecco Territorial Pole), the National Research Council, IRCCS "Eugenio Medea," La Nostra Famiglia Association, Valduce Foundation, Valduce Hospital, "Villa Beretta" Rehabilitation Center, IRCCS INRCA of Casatenovo, ASST Lecco and ATS Brianza.

The Active³ project will last three years and has three main objectives:

  • to promote an active lifestyle as a tool for wellness and prevention;

  • To promote accessibility and inclusion in the practice of sport;

  • Support frailty, both physical and cognitive, for the well-being of the individual.

The joint efforts of the partners involved in Active³ have outlined a multi-step synergistic process in which technology emerges as an enabler to overcome the multiple barriers that still limit access to an active lifestyle at all stages of life. The initiative targets children, adolescents, adults and the elderly with the goal of promoting physical activity as a cornerstone for healthy physical and relational development, as a tool for recreation and socialization, and as a means of physical and cognitive prevention.

Physical Inclusion in School

Active³ aims to enter the primary school so that all children have the opportunity to experience sport as a playful, educational and inclusive experience, regardless of their physical or cognitive frailties. Therefore, it foresees the design and validation of new spaces and technologies aimed at breaking down barriers to the practice of sport, together with the creation of a training process aimed at children, families and teachers to promote health, prevention and correct lifestyles within the school system.

Working Group:

  • for Politecnico di Milano: Department of Mechanics, Department of Management Engineering, Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering.
  • IRCCS "Eugenio Medea" - La Nostra Famiglia Association.
  • ASST Lecco, ATS Brianza

A personalized coaching platform

A digital solution, accessible via web and app, implemented to promote and monitor individual and community motor activity. This platform serves as a personalized coaching tool for users, while for researchers and health care providers it is a valuable source of data useful for verifying the effectiveness of the tool in improving/maintaining wellness and for designing new prevention initiatives aimed at the community.

Created by:

  • SensibiLab - Laboratory of Sensors and Biomedical Systems, scientific director Prof. Giuseppe Andreoni of the Department of Design.
  • ASST Lecco, ATS Brianza and Villa Beretta - Rehabilitation Center of the Valduce Hospital.

Sports Therapy

Two technological solutions designed to enable the frail, elderly and disabled to lead an active life. The first is based on pedaling, a low-impact activity that has been reduced in both indoor and outdoor versions. Through a virtual reality system, a cycling route is reproduced in a digital environment. The patient, on his exercise bike, finds himself cycling in a park or on a riverside path, with the possibility of virtually "meeting" and interacting with other users during the physical activity.

A Trike System also combines the action of motor and Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) for outdoor pedaling, promoting the inclusion of frail and/or disabled people who would not otherwise be able to engage in this type of activity.

The second solution involves the creation of interactive "kiosks" equipped with a user profiling system to personalize activities. The stations will be accessible by mobile phone through interactive totems on which the user can view the activity to be performed, guided by a demonstrator avatar.

Working Group:

  • for Politecnico di Milano: Department of Mechanics, Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering
  • National Research Council - Lecco Headquarters
  • IRCCS "Eugenio Medea" - La Nostra Famiglia Association
  • IRCCS INRCA of Casatenovo
  • ASST Lecco, ATS Brianza