Butterfly Project: Swimming Goggles To Measure Heart Rate
heart rate / cardiovascular | sports & fitness
Hind Hobeika is a swimmer and an engineer from Beirut. She wanted to monitor her heart rate while she was swimming, so she built goggles that sense and display her heart rate in real time. It’s called the Butterfly Project. In this talk, she describes how she designed and assembled the goggles, the challenges she faced, and future prospects for the project.
My name is Hind, and I flew all the way from the Netherlands to come here and this is my first QS conference, and I nearly exactly followed the layout that they told me to follow. So the first question I should answer is what I did.
What I did was simply combining something I did every day, so but then I was studying mechanical engineering in Beirut, and there was something else I was doing every day which was swimming. I was in the swimming team and I used to swim every day, and I still do for an hour or so. So this combination gave me a product, the Butterfleye, that are swimming goggles that can sense, monitor, and display heart rate in real time.
So the opportunity I saw to come up with these goggles is that professional swimmers need to maintain specific heart rate for optimum training. So when I was in the team, the coach needed to know first need to know our resting heart rate and our maximum heart rate. Then the coach used to divide our training according to our percentage of the maximum heart rate. So the warmup was 50% maximum of your heart rate, and fitness heart rate was at 70%, and if you wanted to improve your speed, you needed to swim at 85% at least.
And so, during the training there was no seamless technology adapted for swimmers, and what we used to do was either account for 60 seconds for our pulse, which was pretty stupid because when we stop swimming it was recovery period and it was slowing down, or we could just use a pulse auxometer but that’s not effective, because you need your heart rate while you are swimming and you don’t want it after you have swam and think I should have swam faster, or I should have swam slower.
So, I came up with the Butterfleye project and the whole innovation, and the whole design concept should be adapted for swimmers and that was the main challenge. So I needed to make it specific to the person, so the person needed to input his target heart rate. But also I didn’t want any bells or anything that clips on the finger, because when you are swimming you don’t want to wear anything other than your swimming suit, swimming, and your goggles and get diving into the pool. And I needed good feedback because you only had your goggles.
So the way I first designed it was that you had to have small buttons so you could input your target heart rate, so you could either choose 50, 70, or 85%. Then I had a reflective water infrared sensor that was also waterproof in order to read the swimmers heart rate from the temporal artery, the ramification from the temporal artery that goes through the neck. This was a very big challenge because the slope in this artery is very small and the fact that the sensor is reflective it makes it also very unstable. So lots of computation and lots of hardware work in order to get an accurate reading.
And then I thought of the swimmer can’t really focus on a number. So I thought about making an intuitive color system that told him where he is according to his heart rate. So if the light on the lens goes green he is right on target, if it is read he should slow down. And if it is yellow he should go faster. So that way he can adjust his intensity according to the light that is on his lens and he can get the optimum work out.
This is a picture of my first prototype, and this is the first prototype and I know you are going to tell me it is very big and it looks like a box of soap, and yes it does I know, but it told me the proof of the features that I needed to prove in order to know that this is a possible product.
So I was able to get even when this bulky, when a swimmer wears it. It is able to be aerodynamic and ergonomic so it doesn’t bother him when he swims. It is user friendly, so you can set your target with buttons and you can easily change it between swims. And the heart rate is reliable and accurate, so this is exactly what I needed in order to get moving with the project.
So to answer the question of how I did it, I am an engineer and I wanted to get a job at a multinational firm when I graduated, but I have always had this idea in mind but I could never make it real. But when I thought of the Stars of Science competition I thought why not apply, and I was selected from 7000 applicants to actually go and build the prototypes, so I thought why not. And I ended up winning in third place and a cash prize that is helping me find my project so far.
The competition was an amazing experience because we were enclosed in a set for four months where we actually build a prototype, do a business plan, and a marketing plan. So even if you are an engineer, you needed to learn everything about electronics, industrial design, packaging design, and marketing business. With that experience I’ve learnt a lot and it made me quit the standard job I had, and moved to a cool project that I am focused on right now.
So the first thing I learnt from the competition, and from working on the prototype is that I needed to stop crying because there is a Lebanese things that says 99% of the time, there is a 1% chance things will go right. And I got the confirmation of this saying when I was working on the product.
So I had my perfect electronic design, but when I started assembling the prototype everything went wrong. Whenever I fixed one side, the other side went wrong, and so every time when something went wrong. I used to cry.
I wasn’t used to working hands-on, and I wasn’t used to things not going according to plan. So at the competition I got very unlucky and the prototype actually stopped working during my demo in front of the jury. And this was one thing that I learned that you can’t get so emotionally attached to the product you are working on, and you should always think that there is a solution to this problem.
So I am a mechanical engineer and I have a background in heating and ventilation and air conditioning, everything that’s not really to electronics. And when I went to the competition I had to learn the mechanics from scratch, so resist is, competitors, so I had to do a lot of electronics and I was able to get a prototype done and a PCB printed. So if you have the right mindset you can do anything you want.
Also the world of product development is untiring, meaning that you need about 1 million alterations before you get to the product. And, right now I am at my third alteration and every time I alter it. I find a major design flaw and that I should restart everything from scratch.
The second thing I learned about product development is that it has no limits. So the prototype I have now is just for heart rate and just for swimming, but it can be adapted to any sport. And it can also be adapted to lots of different fields, so you can use in the sports industry to have oxygen, calorie, distance, and lap counting. But you can also have it in the biomedical field and adjust it’s designed for people who have heart problems, or for people who have oxygen problems. And you can even add all sorts of chips to have wireless communication, and to take the whole sports industry, especially swimming with lots of this technology to a whole different level.
So this was my presentation.