Re-Play motion capture project seeks to preserve skills from Gaelic and Basque sports

21 Mar 2013

Image from an Offaly-Westmeath Gaelic football clash in Croke Park, Dublin, via Eoghan McNally/

Launched today in Croke Park, Dublin, a €2m European research project seeks to digitally capture the skills involved in playing Gaelic football and hurling and the traditional Basque game of pelota so that these culturally significant sports can be taught to future generations in fine detail.

Re-Play, developed in Ireland and funded by EU Framework Programme 7 (EU-FP7), involves the collaboration of sporting bodies, cultural organisations, athletes, and scientists and researchers from Ireland, Spain, the UK, Switzerland and Greece.

The project will use motion-capture technology to study styles of play and skills unique to these Gaelic and Basque games, from which precise 3D renderings of athletes’ movements can be created. “The continued development of sensor web technology allows us to undertake projects of this scale and diversity in a cost-effective way,” explained the project’s scientific and technical co-ordinator Prof Noel O’Connor of CLARITY, the centre for sensor web technologies.

Preservation and education

“Our goal at the end of this project is to create novel 3D software that can be used in every club and community centre across Ireland to allow the user to practise new and basic skills and to emulate their national or local heroes in the chosen sport. This project will also recover techniques of past players from archive footage, allowing us to unearth forgotten skills and help us analyse the evolution of the sport,” he added.

O’Connor will co-ordinate the development of the technology needed for the Re-Play project along with Dr Mariate Linaza of Spanish research centre Vicomtech-IK4. Meanwhile, Dr Kieran Moran of DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance will work closely with the GAA and the Basque Sports Federation to determine the key biomechanical aspects to be captured.

It is hoped that this project could achieve widespread use in the preservation of other culturally significant sports that may be under threat worldwide.

“Sport is the most universal and accessible of cultural pursuits. The GAA has played an important role in facilitating and shaping Ireland’s social and cultural heritage for generations,” said Páraic Duffy, director general of the GAA. “We are proud to be part of this important project and it will enable multiple modes of training, coaching and knowledge-sharing that will contribute to the increased participation and preservation of our traditional sports into the future.”

Gaelic football image via Eoghan McNally/Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.