With the Paralympics coming up in September, athletes the world over are training hard right now. Engineers at BAE Systems have come up with an indoor, computerised training system that will allow professional wheelchair racers to speed along without moving an inch.
The Wheelchair Athlete Test and Training (WATT) System simulates courses from around the world, with a screen displaying the track in front of the user while an adjustable frame prevents the chair from actually going anywhere. Electric motor brakes (based on those from the Tacx VR bike trainer) provide varying degrees of resistance to the back wheels, better simulating the terrain and conditions of the courses.
Performance stats, like speed and pushing technique, are tracked over time, allowing athletes to monitor their progress and virtually compete against others with the help of online leaderboards.
It’s all designed so racers can practice regardless of the weather and their schedules, enhance training by granting access to a wider variety of conditions and familiarise themselves with far-off courses before they compete on them for real. VR compatibility in the future could open up a new dimension for training.
“The new WATT System is a ground-breaking advancement in wheelchair racing, and a product that we’re proud to be able to offer athletes,” says Henry White, the head of BAE Systems’ partnership with UK Sport. “There are a number of problems that they face training in poor weather conditions, but with this new system they’ll be able to complete whatever training they need and access courses from all over the world, from wherever they are.”
The WATT System is on display at Farnborough International Airshow this weekend.