Practice sessions among professional dancers often take place in rooms with floor-to-ceiling mirrors that allow performers to observe choreography, assess synergy among the corps and monitor their own technique. Graphic and product designer Lesia Trubat, Barcelona, Spain, brings science to self-evaluation with prototype ballet shoes called E-traces that capture the pressure and movement of a dancer’s feet and send digital signals to electronic devices. A special app then allows the user to customize the data to provide graphs, video or printable images.
The key to Trubat’s creation is the LilyPad Arduino, a microcontroller board that can be sewn to fabric. Similarly malleable power supplies, sensors and actuators with conductive thread make the shoes twinkle-toe recorders. The ankle strap of each shoe has an Arduino, an external heel sensor and conductive threads on the sole and the pointe. The user can focus on dancing technique and expression, but later can review a graph showing patterns of motion, differences in signals from those of other dancers and video “instant replay” of the performance to allow self-assessment without distraction. Applications of the technology could include all types of dance training and sports like running, long jump or bicycle racing.