2024 – Wearable Visualization Can Provide Sporting Advantage

Author(s): Jason Dykes
Affiliation(s): City giCentre, University London


We establish the positive effects of visualizing information about current performance and location on sports garments using TechStyle – a densely woven highly wicking fabric that permits visualization. Our design uses broad single-colour bands near the cuffs of long-sleeved garments to aid navigation. Lighter colours on the left and right sleeves are used to direct wearers left or right respectively. Additional bands on the forearm are used to show heart-rate and power output as detected by the fabric.
These subtle means of informing wearers of their location and performance were tested ‘in the wild’ in four contexts involving three sports and both professional and recreational levels of performance: in orienteering at a training day, in triathlon at a regional event and in cycling with the UK Youth Development Squad and on a recreational ride during Le Tour de VIS 2023.
In the first case (orienteering/performance) all athletes wore TechStyle with a visualization group outperforming a control group in terms of the extent to which actual race times improved upon times predicted using historical performance data. Analysis of literals suggests that the navigation visualization was beneficial. In the triathlon event (recreational) ten athletes wore TechStyle and our qualitative analysis showed no effect in terms of navigation and no benefit to the performance visualization. Qualitative analysis in the performance cycling case indicated that the feedback on heart rate was useful to riders and an improvement upon the existing ways of accessing this information. Cyclists suggested alternative means of providing this information both numerically and graphically and requested a time series. However, the navigation aids were not deemed to be beneficial. Qualitative analysis in the recreational cycling case found the opposite – cyclists considered the navigational aids to be effective and useful but not the performance indicators. The riders liked the jerseys and the fabric nevertheless and suggested the possibility of a placebo effect on performance.
We conclude that TechStyle can provide advantage in some sporting contexts, even with relatively simple graphical depictions of data. The extent to which this is the case will depend upon the event, level of performance and priorities of the participants. This suggests the need for designs that are more context and perhaps athlete specific or more flexible than those used here to improve performance more widely.