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Linking badminton racket design and performance through motion capture

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Although badminton racket technology has advanced considerably, the relationship between design and performance are still rather poorly understood. By studying the dynamic behaviour of the racket during a stroke, different stroke parameters (e.g. racket speed at impact, maximum deflection) can be used to analyse the effects of different racket properties and different player skill levels. Motion capture is used to determine racket dynamics during a stroke. Standard kinematic analysis and an optimisation-based kinematic analysis implemented in the AnyBody Modelling System are compared. The optimised method proves effective in reducing position error and producing smoother kinematic profiles. Using this method, applications of studying racket dynamics through motion capture are presented. Analysing player skill level and racket stiffness can help link racket design and performance.
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Linking Badminton Racket Design and Performance Through Motion Capture
Maxine Kwan & John Rasmussen
Department of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering, Aalborg University,
9220 Aalborg East, Denmark, (e-mail:maxine.kwan@gmail.com)
Abstract: Although badminton racket technology has advanced considerably, the relationship between design
and performance are still rather poorly understood. By studying the dynamic behaviour of the racket during a
stroke, different stroke parameters (e.g. racket speed at impact, maximum deflection) can be used to analyse
the effects of different racket properties and different player skill levels. Motion capture is used to determine
racket dynamics during a stroke. Standard kinematic analysis and an optimisation-based kinematic analysis
implemented in the AnyBody Modelling System are compared. The optimised method proves effective in
reducing position error and producing smoother kinematic profiles. Using this method, applications of
studying racket dynamics through motion capture are presented. Analysing player skill level and racket
stiffness can help link racket design and performance.
Keywords:
1 Introduction
Badminton is a game of speed, skill, and strategy. With record shuttlecock speeds reaching over 330 km/h, badminton is
often claimed as “the fastest racket sport in the world[1]. By comparison, the fastest tennis serve recorded is 246 km/h.
The exact origins of the game are unknown; early forms of badminton were played in ancient China, England, Poland,
and India [2]. The modern rules of the game are adapted from a version of the sport played in 1860s England, where the
game first became known as badminton. Since then, badminton has become a “major sport in most countries of Northern
Europe and Southeast Asia” [3]. The popularity of the game has also increased worldwide. The International Badminton
Federation (now Badminton World Federation), founded by nine member countries in 1934, has grown to over 170
member countries. In 1992, badminton made its debut into the Olympic Games, which has been dominated by players
from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, and Denmark.
The badminton racket has also advanced over the years. The first rackets were made with wooden frames [3]. In the
1950s, steel and fibreglass began to replace wood. Eventually, these materials were replaced with aluminium, carbon,
graphite, and boron. These advances in materials have led to stronger, stiffer, lighter rackets that can support higher
string tensions, resulting in even faster game play. Despite these advancements, the link between the design and
performance of the racket remains a mystery.
Modern racket designs have largely been developed using heuristic methods, relying on player intuition and
manufacturer experience, and racket performance is subsequently assessed by player feedback. The badminton racket
suffers from a severe lack of research, unlike other sports equipment like tennis rackets [4-10], golf clubs [11, 12], or
baseball bats [13-15]. While racket sports all share some similarities, the differences between badminton and tennis are
large enough to warrant racket design study specific to the sport of badminton.
The very first scientific investigation into the badminton racket was sponsored by Active Sportswear, owner of the
Danish badminton brand, FZ Forza. The goals of the research project, launched in June 2007, were to build a better
understanding of the interaction between player and racket by studying the dynamic behaviour of the racket during a
stroke.
With an analytical approach, badminton rackets can perhaps be designed more efficiently and effectively. By
establishing a better understanding of the relationship between the design of a racket and how it performs, the properties
of a racket can be properly tuned in order to achieve the desired response. This can also help explain why different
players like different rackets.
2 Badminton Basics
The performance requirements of a badminton racket are often described in terms of power and control. Power refers to
the ability of the racket to impart speed to the shuttlecock at impact. Control is a measure of the racket’s
manoeuvrability, the ability to direct the shuttlecock precisely where desired. As these qualities are based mostly on
perception, it is necessary to assign some measurable quantities to these attributes, in order to perform a scientific study.
For the purposes of this study, these performance characteristics are simplified into the following definitions. The
racket’s “power” can be measured by the momentum transferred to the shuttlecock at impact, or more simply, the
shuttlecock exit velocity. The “control” of the racket can be loosely related to the consistency of the stroke, e.g. a
measure of variation in the racket speed.
The badminton racket is composed of several parts: butt cap, handle, top cap, shaft, heart (or throat), frame (or head),
and string bed (labelled in Figure 1). The important attributes of the racket can be divided into two main categories:
mass properties and stiffness properties. The racket is often characterized by manufacturers in terms of balance and
flexibility. Balance refers to the centre of mass location, measured from the butt end of the racket. Flexibility is a less
specific measure, generally given as a rating from 1 (very flexible) to 5 (very stiff). While these give some information
about the mass and stiffness properties of the racket to the consumer, there may be more useful measures to characterize
the racket. For example, several studies have shown that swing speed is most highly correlated with the moment of
inertia (MOI), or “swingweight”, of the sporting implement [8-10, 13-15]. This indicates that the racket’s MOI is the
deciding factor in how fast the racket can be swung, rather than the total mass of the racket.
Figure 1. Anatomy of a badminton racket.
Figure 2. Basic phases of a badminton stroke: backswing (Frames 1-7), forward swing (Frames 7-10), contact (Frame
10), and follow-through (Frames 11-12).
The badminton stroke consists of four basic phases (illustrated in Figure 2): backswing, forward swing, contact, and
follow-through. During a stroke, the inertial forces generated from the high accelerations cause the racket to bend. As
the racket is swung forward, the racket bends backward and then recovers forward, returning to its original shape as
impact occurs. This deformation can therefore provide some additional velocity to the racket at impact and affect the
timing and dynamics of the racket during the stroke. The dynamics of the racket therefore consists of flexible-body
motion as well as rigid-body motion.
By studying the dynamics of the stroke, the key characteristics of the racket can be identified. The relationships between
the properties of the racket, the style and skill of the player, and the performance aspects of power and control can then
also be determined by analysing the dynamic behaviour of the racket during the stroke.
3 Experimental Methods
To study the dynamic behaviour, the movement of the racket during the stroke can be measured using motion capture.
Motion capture is a technique used to digitally record movement in 3D space. The motion capture system involves
several infrared cameras that pick up the motion of reflective markers placed on the object of interest. Through
triangulation methods, the motion capture software is able to reconstruct the motion of markers in 3D if the marker is
seen by at least two cameras during the motion.
A motion capture system (Oqus, Qualisys AB, Gothenburg, Sweden) of eight cameras was used to record ten trials of a
smash stroke performed by an advanced player at the maximum rate of 500 frames per second (fps). Eight 10 mm
spherical markers were placed on the racket, five on the handle and three on the head, illustrated in Figure 2.
Since motion capture measures only positions directly, velocities and accelerations are obtained by differentiating the
position data with respect to time. Position data of the markers were passed through a zero-phase, second-order, low-
pass Butterworth filter with a cut-off frequency of 60 Hz and subsequently fitted with a 6th order B-spline with the
AnyBody Modelling System (AnyBody Technology, Aalborg, Denmark) to enable calculations of derivatives of
measured marker trajectories.
4 Model
The marker trajectories were then used to determine 3D rigid body kinematics of the racket through (a) standard
kinematic analysis and (b) an optimisation-based kinematic analysis, available in the AnyBody Modelling System [16].
The flexible racket was modelled as two rigid-body segments, the handle H and the frame F, connected by a universal
joint, J, located at the base of the shaft, where rotation is about the y-axis and z-axis (Figure 3). This creates a
mechanical system with a total of eight rigid-body degrees-of-freedom (dof) against the 24 coordinates measured by the
eight markers.
Figure 3. Illustration of marker placement and definition of body-fixed coordinate systems for the racket model used for
marker processing.
The resulting kinematic over-determinacy is problematic in standard kinematic analysis. Therefore, only three handle
markers (P1, P2, and P4) were used to define the body and determine the kinematics of the handle. These markers were
chosen because they were seen most reliably by the cameras. Markers P2 and P4 defined the y-axis, and the x-axis is
formed by P1 and the midpoint between P2 and P4. Markers P6 and P8 were used to define the frame segment. Angular
velocities and accelerations were determined by central finite difference.
In the optimisation-based method, the kinematic over-determinacy can be used to reduce the measurement errors.
Kinematic data for all markers were used to minimize the distance between the measured and modelled marker position
to improve positioning of the racket segments. Details of this approach can be found in Andersen et al. [16].
4.1 Racket head speed
Since racket power is defined here as the momentum transferred to the shuttlecock at impact, determining the
momentum of the racket just before impact is important to assessing racket power. Several factors contribute to racket
momentum, including the velocity of the impact location on the racket head. This velocity can be determined using
simple kinematic calculations.
.
The velocity of any point P along the racket frame can be expressed as:
PFJP rωvv
(1)
where vJ is the velocity of joint J, ωF is the angular velocity of the racket frame, and rP is the position vector of point P
from J. Similarly, the velocity of the joint J can be expressed as
JHP1Jrωvv
(2)
where vP1 is the velocity of point P1, ωH is the angular velocity of the racket handle, and rJ is the position vector of
point J from P1. Combining Eqs. (1) and (2), the velocity of point P can then be expressed:
PFJHP1Prωrωvv
(3)
Head speed is defined here as the velocity normal to the face of the racket, calculated in the body-fixed coordinate
system of the racket frame, shown in Figure 2. In this paper, “head velocity” refers to the total velocity vector of the
head centre, while “head speed” refers to the normal component of this velocity vector. The head centre is defined here
as the origin of the body-fixed coordinate system of the racket frame. From Eq. (3), the velocity of the head centre vC is
given by:
C P1 H J F C
  vvω r ω r
(4)
where rC is the position vector of the head centre from J. The z-component of this velocity represents the head speed.
Written explicitly, the head speed is:
CxFyJxHyP1zhead rrvv
(5)
where vP1z represents the z-component of the velocity of P1; rJx and rCx represent the x-component of the position vectors
rJ and rC, respectively; and ωHy and ωFy represent the angular velocities of the racket handle and frame about the y-axis,
respectively.
The total head speed can be separated into translational and rotational components. From Eq. (5), the translational
contribution is given by the velocity of marker P1, and the rotational contribution comes from the angular velocities of
the racket handle and frame. These components represent the translation and rotation of the racket alone, without
considering the body segments.
4.2 Racket head deflection
The elastic deflection of the racket is taken at the head centre. Only the component normal to the racket face (in the z-
direction) is considered here. The racket head deflection, whead, is given by:
[0 0 1]
head handle C
wAp
(6)
where Ahandle is the transformation matrix for the handle segment from global to local coordinates, and pC is the position
vector in global coordinates for the head centre.
The elastic velocity can also be determined. Assuming that the racket handle is completely rigid, the elastic velocity can
be found by taking the difference between the motion of the handle and frame.
 
elastic F H C
  vω ω r
(7)
Focusing again on the z-component of the velocities, the elastic velocity contribution to the head speed can be written
explicitly:
)( HyFyCxelastic rv
(8)
For all rackets used, rJx =0.220 m and rCx=0.325 m. All velocities reported here are presented in the body-fixed
coordinate system shown in Figure 3.
5 Results
The kinematics of the racket during the stroke, determined by standard kinematic analysis and the optimisation-based
kinematic analysis, were compared. The racket deformation profiles over the stroke, determined by the two methods,
were also compared.
Linear and angular velocities of the frame and handle segments during the stroke are shown in Figures 4 and 5,
respectively, as calculated by standard and optimised kinematic methods. For the frame, linear velocities are very similar
between the two methods, while angular velocities are clearly smoother using the optimised method. Linear velocities of
the handle are relatively similar between the two methods, but the optimised method shows definite improvement over
the standard method in the angular velocities, especially about the x-axis of the handle.
Figure 4. Linear and angular velocities of the racket frame segment during a stroke, as calculated by standard (dashed)
and optimised (solid) kinematic methods. Impact occurs at t=0.4 s.
Figure 5. Linear and angular velocities of the racket handle segment during a stroke, as calculated by standard
(dashed) and optimised (solid) methods. Impact occurs at t=0.4 s.
From the kinematics of the frame segment, the racket head speed at impact can be determined from the z-component of
the linear velocity (45.1 m/s), and the y-component of angular velocity (80.9 rad/s) is indicative of the rotational
contribution to the total head speed at impact.
Combining the kinematic data of the frame and handle segments, the elastic behaviour of the racket during the stroke
can be determined from the orientation of the frame relative to the handle. Figure 6 shows the elastic deflection and
velocity at the racket head.
Figure 6. Elastic deflection and velocity of the racket head during a stroke, as calculated by standard (dashed) and
optimised (solid) methods. Impact occurs at t=0.4 s.
Although both methods produce somewhat noisy results, the plots give a general idea of the magnitude of the maximum
deflection (25 mm), deflection at impact (0 mm), and elastic velocity at impact (1.6 m/s). For a total head speed at
impact of 45 m/s, this comes out to about a 3.7% increase in impact head speed due to racket elasticity.
For a more concrete assessment of the two methods, the error in racket marker location was calculated. Deviations of the
measured marker locations from the rigid body racket model are expressed as a magnitude of error in position, shown in
Figure 7.
Figure 7. Magnitude of the position error between measured and model marker locations of all racket markers, using
(a) standard and (b) optimised kinematic methods.
The optimised approach appears to be an improvement over the standard approach, with a peak error of 6.5 mm versus
9.7 mm. The optimised method also leads to improved kinematic data, especially in angular velocities and deflection
profiles.
6 Applications
Using motion capture, the dynamic behaviour of a racket during the stroke can be observed to evaluate performance of
different players or different rackets. By processing the motion capture data using the optimisation-based kinematic
analysis, greater accuracy in the kinematic data is ensured. Two example applications of analysing performance through
motion capture are given here. First, differences are observed with players of varying skill level, then with rackets of
varying stiffness.
6.1 Player skill level
Motion capture data for a smash stroke performed by two advanced players (A and B) and two novice players (C and D)
were recorded. Racket head speed profiles for each player are shown in Figure 8.
Players of different skill levels generate different racket head speeds at impact. Players A and B achieve speeds of
around 45 m/s, whereas players C and D only reach 20-25 m/s. The relative translational and rotational contributions to
impact head speed also vary between players. Linear velocities of the handle base account for 5-15% of the total head
speed for players A and B, and 15-25% of the total head speed for players C and D. Advanced players therefore used
more rotation than the novice players to generate their higher racket head speeds.
Other differences in technique can also be observed. Among the advanced players, player B has a much shorter
backswing than player A. Advanced players also have a much more distinctive backswing phase; the backswing in the
novice players are somewhat drawn out and less pronounced.
Figure 8. Racket head speed profiles, with translational and rotational contributions, for players A, B, C, and D. Impact
occurs at t=0.4 s.
6.2 Racket stiffness
Motion capture data for a smash stroke performed by two advanced players with two different rackets were recorded.
Racket 1 was ultra-stiff, with a carbon-fibre shaft of fibres all aligned at 0°; and Racket 2 was ultra-soft, with the shaft
made from carbon fibres at 45° only. Elastic deflection and velocity profiles for players E and F are shown in Figure 9.
Figure 9. Elastic deflection and velocity profiles for players E (top) and F (bottom). Impact occurs at t=0.4 s.
The maximum deflection increases nearly 4 times with the ultra-soft racket compared to the ultra-stiff racket (8 vs 2
cm). The deflection at impact is near-zero with the ultra-stiff racket, and around -4 cm with the ultra-soft racket. A
negative deflection indicates that the racket has not yet returned to its undeformed state at the time of impact. This may
have implications on racket control, where striking the shuttlecock with a racket that is still in a very deflected state may
lead to imprecision in the desired shuttlecock trajectory.
The elastic velocity at impact is also much higher with the ultra-soft racket than the ultra-stiff racket, 3 vs 2 m/s,
indicating that the more flexible racket can provide a greater boost to the impact head speed. However, a larger elastic
velocity at impact could also cause greater difficulty in precise timing of the impact. One can imagine that a racket that
is too flexible would be quite unwieldy.
7 Conclusions
The relationship between racket design and performance can be better understood by studying the dynamic behaviour of
the racket. Motion capture can be used to determine racket kinematic and deformation profiles during the stroke.
Position data from motion capture can be filtered, splined, and differentiated using the AnyBody Modelling System. In
addition, a rigid-body model of the racket can be created in order to optimise the location of the markers throughout the
stroke. Using this optimisation-based approach, data from all available markers can be used rather than discarding some
marker information to solve the problem of over-determinacy. This leads to smoother kinematic profiles, which can be
difficult to attain in high speed applications such as a badminton smash stroke. This method is also helpful in situations
where markers go missing due to obstruction by the hand at the handle or to ultra high velocities at the racket tip.
The optimisation-based method provides greater accuracy of the dynamic profiles, so that detecting small differences
between different playing styles or different racket properties is possible. Accuracy near the time of impact is especially
important for validating models of racket-shuttlecock impact and for determining consistency in the stroke.
Motion capture can be used to investigate several aspects of the racket-player interaction, including the effects of
different player styles and different racket stiffnesses. Advanced players generate much higher racket head speeds at
impact, by producing much higher angular velocities than novice players. Flexible rackets offer greater elastic velocities
at impact, providing more of an additional boost to the impact racket head speed than stiff rackets. This indicates that
more elastic rackets provide more “power.” However, a greater elastic velocity at impact may also introduce greater
uncertainty in the precise positioning of the racket and timing of contact with the shuttlecock, causing a reduction in
“control” of the racket. Advanced players appear to value control over power, preferring stiffer rackets than more
flexible ones. This may also be due to the fact that the extra velocity provided by the racket’s elasticity is relatively
small compared to the speeds they can generate with their technique.
Further studies involving other racket properties and their effects on racket power and control can also be performed
using motion capture. Control is defined here as a measure of variation, or consistency in the stroke, which would
require a large number of trials and highly accurate measurements. By piecing together the observations on racket
properties, the player’s skill and style, and performance, an understanding of the intricate interaction between player and
racket can be established and used to improve design and customization of the badminton racket.
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... figure 8.3). La déflexion du shaft de la raquette de badminton a déjà été mise en évidence [235,236,237]. Nous essayons de comprendre comment cet effet est utilisé lors du smash et comment optimiser la déflexion du shaft pour aider le joueur à augmenter la vitesse de ses coups. ...
... L'image 10 correspond à l'impact. D'après[236]. ...
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