Blind Swimmers (and/or Engineers)
I started thinking of mad ideas for helping people to swim without sight. Does anyone have experience with anything that falls into the area of obstacle detection (wall) and guidance (staying in the lane)? I don't mean being hit on the head by a pole with a tennis ball on the end or just stroke counting. More like electronics.
Well, any experience anyone has of being a blind swimmer and/or working with a blind swimmer would be interesting hear from.
Are you talking about competitive swimming, or fitness swimming, or both? For fitness swimming, there might be a market for a device like the one you describe. But competitive swimming is governed by rulebooks, so swimmers are restricted to what the rulebooks allow.
U.S. Masters Swimming rules allow the use of a tapper as a notification of turns and the finish. Sound devices, however, are explicitly prohibited (except, of course, for the starting tone which all swimmers hear). It is also permissable for a blind swimmer to be assisted getting onto the starting blocks, and to be touched during a relay to notify them when the preceding swimmer has touched the wall.
USA Swimming rules are a bit more generous. In addition to the assistances described for U.S. Masters Swimming, USA Swimming rules also allow the use of a tapper to signal a blind swimmer who surfaces in the wrong lane after a start or turn, and include allowances in stroke judging for a blind swimmer who breaks their stroke cycle because of an inadvertent lane change, or whose arm recovery in breaststroke or butterfly is asymmetric because one arm hit a lane line. A blind swimmer who surfaces in the wrong lane after a start or turn may even be allowed to remain in that lane if it was previously unoccupied. USA Swimming rules also allow an auditory signal to be substituted for lap counters, and allow the use of an auditory command as a signal to start in a relay.
NCAA rules, as far as I can determine, make no special provision for blind swimmers.
I don't mean to imply that if you design an aid for blind swimmers, it won't ever be possible for them to use it in competitive swimming. But before that could happen, you/they would first have to sell it to one or more of the organizations that govern competitive swimming and persuade them to modify their rulebooks so as to allow it. Since USMS and USA Swimming have already made accomodations for blind swimmers, it's quite possible they might agree, as long as they can be persuaded that it won't give blind swimmers an advantage.
Hmmm, cats (and many other animals) use their facial whiskers to find their way around in dark cramped places. Ocelots, which live in very dense forests, have the longest whiskers of all. So, maybe you could design a swim cap with long nylon whiskers. On the inside of the cap, around the forehead and side, the whiskers would be attached to little plastic tabs that would move and touch the skin a different way when the end of the "whisker" hits something like a lane rope.
Check out Stanford University's Dynamic Design Lab. They have a driver assistance system to help drivers avoid collisions. (http://www-cdr.stanford.edu/dynamic/PF/p_fields.html) This is obviously too complicated for a swimmer, but might point you in a direction for further research.
Techie system that seems questionable:
Adapt a tap (I'd LOVE to see this used in every meet with blind pool swimmers!):
Their website is currently down, but I've contated a couple of POCs to see if they are still available. I want to pickup a set for both ends of the lanes.
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