Thales unveils rugby scrum simulator

June 4th, 2010 - 9:13 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) Indicative of the increasing use of science and technology in improving the performance of sports persons, European aerospace major Thales Friday unveiled its rugby scrum simulator - the first of its kind in the world - developed in close partnership with the French rugby federation to improve player safety.

“The simulator was designed to analyse the risk of scrum accidents, particularly spinal injuries, and thus improve player safety,” a statement issued from the Thales headquarters at Neuilly sur Seine said.

“Instability and collapse of the scrum formation is one of the primary causes of player injuries. This simulator meets critical requirements for reducing accidents, but also goes one step further as a tool for coaching and match preparation,” the statement added.

Conducted as part of a management-transition training programme at Thales, the project has combined state-of-the-art technology and advanced research for the direct benefit of top-level sport.

A group of seven Thales personnel worked closely with the teams at CNRS, the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the French rugby federation for several months.

Development was led by Didier Retière, in charge of the French rugby forwards; Pierre-Paul Vidal, CNRS research director at the Université Paris Descartes and a specialist in neurosciences; Julien Piscione, senior research consultant in biomechanics and head of the rugby federation’s science unit; and Serge Couvet, simulation engineer at Thales.

The scrum simulator is in the shape of a six-legged robot, relying on a six-axis motion system to respond to player inputs (force and motion) via sensors installed behind the beams/shoulder pads.

“The simulator reconstructs the scrum situation by moving the beam left and right, backwards and forwards, up and down, combined with three-axis rotation,” the statement said.

“Unlike a simple muscle development simulator, which measures forces only, the simulator is designed to develop sensory-motor control. Individual player weaknesses reduce the overall effectiveness of the scrum formation. The simulator identifies these weaknesses so as to making the scrum more steady and stable,” the statement said.

“The scrum members need to make the formation move as a single man,” explained Serge Couvet, project engineer at Thales.

Sensors located between the beam and the simulator structure measure the engagement forces of each player. The simulator - which is designed to support player qualifications of all levels - reacts in real time, according to a pre-programmed control strategy.

“The simulator is a real revolution,” said the rugby said Julien Piscione, senior research consultant in biomechanics and head of the rugby federation’s science unit.

“Not only is it the first simulator of its kind ever developed in the world, it is also the first time that neuroscience has been applied to simulator design.

“The secret behind this innovation lies in its ability to generate proprioceptive inputs. These allow players to decide how to move and push against the simulator, which reacts accordingly,” Piscione added.

Thales is a major player in the development of training and simulation solutions for civil and military applications. The company works in close partnership with customers to understand their evolving requirements and propose adapted solutions.

For all synthetic training equipment needs, Thales provides a complete solution capability, from PC-based training aids, through fixed-based system trainers and full-motion mission simulators to interactive networked synthetic environments for high-level military mission simulation, the statement said.

Thales is a global technology leader for the aerospace and space, defence, security and transportation markets. In 2009, the company generated revenues of 12.9 billion euros with 68,000 employees in 50 countries.

Thales is the running for a $1.5 billion order for upgrading 51 Mirage-2000s fighter-bombers of the Indian Air Force to Dash-5 levels. This will give the jets multi-role capability with longer-range radars and fire-and-forget missiles, enabling less aircraft to perform a given mission thanks to greater fuel and weapon-delivery capacities.

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