Data Driven Athlete

Project Description

How can data driven insights from digital twins empower Paralympians to find and maintain balance?

A digital twin is a virtual representation of an object, a person or a process. Creating digital twins requires accumulating and analysing large sets of data. They provide a model that can help predict future behaviour. It is this technology that we will explore in our design challenge.

Being a Paralympian means more than being the best at a sport. It means juggling sport, work/study, and living daily life with a disability. In this project, we paired up with the Hogeschool van Amsterdam’s Elite Sport & Study program and Streamingbuzz/Aionsports, an AR, VR, and streaming technology solution provider.

In this project, we explore the questions:

  • How to make AR/VR/streaming technology more personalized, inclusive, and accessible?
  • When, where, and how to deliver insights to enable balance?
  • What unique insights do different types of stakeholders want/need? e.g. athlete, coaches, etc.
  • What data to collect and how to collect?
  • How to translate data into relevant insights?

This project focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals:

Good Health and Well-Being  

Our Progress

Maker’s Sprint

See the conversational object that was the result of our Maker’s Sprint.

Conversational object

We explored the question of making data visualisations accessible to visually impaired people. While our initial solution was to create a tangible 3D-printed graph, we opted do experiment more with the digital. As a result, we created a Multi-Sensory Data Presentation of our emotional states and their intensity throughout the week, which would allow to experience data both visually and audibly. Read more about our process here in our Medium post.


Sprint 1

During this Sprint we delved deeper into the research of our design challenge, users and technologies. To guide this process, we posed the following question as our Sprint Goal:

How could we use the Digital Twin technology to help student athletes reach well-being/balance throughout their daily life in an inclusive way?

To find the answer to this question, we took several directions of research.

First, in order to empathise more with the pains and challenges of our target audience, we conducted interviews with two Paralympic athletes from the Topsport Academie Amsterdam, as well as with the organisation’s manager. To get even more information on the matter, we investigated recent studies on the well-being and balance of student athletes. The main takeaway for us became the wide array of stressors and challenges that they encounter in their daily life, which differs them from just athletes or just students.

Topsport Academie Amsterdam athletes

Second, our Sprint Goal motivated us to find a working definition of balance, that would guide us in future. However, after exploring the different views on the topic present in academia, we realised that balance is a multi-dimensional idea that couldn’t be narrowed down to either health, accomplishments in life or positive emotions. Instead, it represents a complex construct with subjective and objective layers.

Balance scheme

This is the visualisation of balance that we came up with during our research.


Thirdly, a large segment of our research was devoted to technologies. Market research revealed that Digital Twins can be created by us either willingly, as in case with self-tracking applications, or without our awareness, as on the content-driven platforms like YouTube, Netflix and Spotify. The work of their recommendation algorithms mirrors our own tastes, beliefs and choices, so the content we see in our profiles can give a glimpse into what kind of Digital Twin these platforms have created for us.

To understand our partners’ technology, we went to visit StreamingBuzz for a discussion about the applications of their VR solutions. During this trip we had the chance to try out their VR experiences first-hand and learn more about their engine and development process. One important takeaway of this visit was the agreement to explore the audial aspects of the VR in our collaboration.

Photos from the field trip to StreamingBuzz

Lastly, as a part of our research on balance and well-being, we decided to explore our own notions of balance through a 1-week tracking experiment. Let alone to our own interpretations of this concept, everybody in our team opted for diverse techniques and resources that supported each of us individually, in our pursuit for balance.

collage of our self-tracking methods

Visualisations of our self-tracking research


From this experience, we’ve learned the importance of providing context and interpretation to data, the power of self-tracking in building better habits, and the endless possibilities of using self-tracking as an act of self-expression. Read more about the experiment and our takeaways in our Medium post.

If you would like to read more about our Sprint 1, read this more detailed post about our research and ideation.