News & Events Sports Technology

Top 5 Sports Tech News – April 2020

For April's Top 5, we have a good mix of events/news and products including news of another exciting sports tech accelerator, patented technology applied in a different application, wearables for bike analysis now used in running, an App with 3D videos for athletics training and another App that added pose estimation for real-time tracking of joints. Find out more below.

While not a lot of live sporting events have been going on around the world, eSports didn’t quite miss a beat. In fact, it probably gained a bit more attention. For the people in sports and exercise science (students or practitioners), there has been a lot more webinars, Q&A sessions and virtual conferences where experts are sharing their knowledge and experiences. But slowly and steadily, sporting clubs and organisations are making plans to ‘resurface’ as parts of the world recover from the pandemic. It will be gradual and it has a to be well planned. It will not be wise to rush it. For this edition of Top5SportsTechNews, we bring you a mix of news and events – from a shoe technology being applied in helmets, to the first Techstars Sports Tech accelerator in Melbourne and a wearable technology for analysing runs. We also highlight two sports apps that we thought were worth mentioning even though they weren’t launched recently. Hope you all enjoy.

Sports Engineering Inc Adapts Smartspring Technology For Football Helmets

Sports Engineering Inc (SEI) is a sports technology company based in New York and they exclusively licensed the Smartspring™ Technology developed by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). The patented technology and design was initially intended for absorbing impact in footwear and which they are still developing solutions in that area. The goal of the innovative shoe design is for it to work ‘normally’ during normal levels of athletic movements and when the load reaches an injury risk theshold, the springs within come into play to offset the load. This prevents or reduces the risk of knee injuries and ankle injuries.

Smartspring effect on loading in a sport shoe (source: SEI)

Recently, the SEI team has submitted a proposal to the NFL’s HeadHealthTech challenge for a grant to develop a helmet prototype for the NFL Helmet Challenge. This is a joint effort between SEI, WPI, UMass Dartmouth, and Perfect Storm Sports Technology, LLC. The idea is to adapt the concept from the Smartspring™ Technology – applying nonlinear springs between the outer shell and the head, to absorb impacts more effectively than foam. The absorptive capacity of the nonlinear springs can be twice that of conventional helmets for linear impacts. Also, they believe that their design approach can address rotational impacts/accelerations which is the main contributor to brain injuries.  Apart from working on this football helmet prototype, SEI has further licensed the rights from WPI to 2 recently filed provisional patent applications that pertain directly to protective helmets. It will be interesting to see what other sports helmets they will bring to the market to combat concussions. I’m sure ice hockey will be one of them.

Read more about this in their press release here: link. You can check out this video that explains a little about the mechanics of the Smartspring™ Technology in a sports shoe:

The First Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator

Techstars is running their first SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator which starts on June 1st 2020. As the name suggests, the program is focused on growing sports technology startups that has the greatest potential. The program is a joint initiative between Techstars, Tennis Australia, LaunchVic and Victoria University. Applications were open back in September 2019 and startups had up to December 2019 to submit their entries. Close to 200 start-ups from more than 40 countries applied to be a part of the program. They were narrowed down to 20 and then through another intense selection process, 10 were picked to take part in the accelerator.

The 10 startups all seem to be working on somewhat different areas. There’s camera/imaging technology (Modu), educational sports app for kids (elanation), computer vision for tennis performance analysis (SwingVision), sports broadcast clips sharing (Snapscreen), IoT for cognitive-motor training (A-Champs), cricket bat sensor (Str8bat), brain training app (GameSense), mental fitness app (FitMind), innovative tennis racquets (TENX), and digital sport sponsoring (MyFavorito). A few of the startups have hardware in their products but mostly are software or app focused and some of them with AI or proprietory algorithms.

You can read more about Techstars’ selection here: “The Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator Inaugural Class” or check out the video below from Tennis Australia.

Leomo Launches Product For Analysing Runs

Leomo Run

Leomo is developer of wearable sensor systems for analysing motion in sporting activities. They started off with the Leomo Bike which consists of a Bike computer (or the main unit) and 5 motion sensors (IMUs) that connect to the main unit via bluetooth. The main unit can also connect with heart rate sensors and other bike sensors that uses bluetooth or ANT+. They then came up with a Live Video Sync (LVS) to combined live motion tracking data with video for better motion analysis. Recently, they launched Leomo Run. Using the same hardware as the Leomo Bike, they developed a running-specific software with running-specific Motion Performance Indicators (MPIs) to help runners run more efficiently, run stronger/faster, prevent injuries and keep track of their rehabilitation journey. The key running metrics include Distance, Speed, Pace, Cadence & Stride length. The more advanced ones that can also be found in other running sensors include Ground Contact Time, Vertical Oscillation, Landing Pattern. Then there are these metrics that are not so common and they are Smoothness, Thigh Swing Speed, Strike Angular Range, Heel Pitch and Recoil Angular Range. To really understand them all, it will be worth watching Leomo’s webinar where they break down what each one means in detail and how runners can take advantage of them to improve their running form.

Leomo Android device (main unit) and 5 sensors

In terms of hardware: the main unit or computer is basically an Android mobile device and it can be worn on an arm strap, waist belt or back pocket. It’s size is 98mm x 51.6mm x 15.8mm which is quite small (smaller than an iPhone 4s). Besides being a bike or run computer, it also does all the regular things you would use a smart phone during a run – listen to music or take pictures on your run. Leomo also has a viewer app for WearOS, so users with a WearOS watch can have a quick glance of some of the metrics on the Leomo app without stopping or slowing down. There are 2 kit versions that are sold: the regular sensor kit which consists of the main unit and 2 sensors; the sensor kit pro which has the same main unit and 5 sensors. The 5 sensors are meant to be worn on the runners lower body – 1 on the lower back, 2 on the thighs (left and right) and 2 on the feet/shoes (left and right). You can find out more about Leomo Run on their website: link or check out their intro video below:

Athletics3D App Provides 3D Videos & Tools For Athletics Training

Athletics3D is an App that aims to help coaches and athletes in track and field in their training by providing 3D animated videos of various track and field events. The 3D animations demonstrate the proper way of performing 9 different track and field events – three run events (sprinting, middle distance running, run with hurdles), three jump events (high jump, long jump, triple jump), and three throws events (shot-put, discuss, javelin). Coaches and athletes can watch the animations from different angles, playback at different speeds in order to place emphasis on techniques in specific segments of an event. For every event, the app also incorporates tips, features common faults and explains the biomechanics of the movements so there is the educational piece for athletes. On top of that, the app includes videos of drills and progressions to help with practicing each segment of an event.

Athletics3D screenshots of the 3D animations, tips on proper techniques, drills & progression videos and video analysis.

A useful tool for coaches is the video analysis feature. Coaches can use the app to video record the athletes during their training and do a comparison with the 3D animation to identify areas for improvement. Coaches can annotate on the videos and add notes as useful references then playback at different speeds. How the Athletics3D team created the 3D animations is quite interesting. They recorded Australian decathlete Cedric Dubler performing the different events using the Vicon motion capture system so all the movements were captured in 3D. There was a lot of cameras and a lot of markers involved. You can find out more about the app features here: link, or if you would like to see how the animations were made, check out their video below:

Binary Sports App Adds Pose Estimation To Analyse Techniques

Binary Sports is a sports tech company that developed video analysis software/apps for performance analysis or tactical analysis. Some other commonly used terms apart from tactical analysis are notational analysis or match analysis and some popular software/apps that do the same thing include LongoMatch, Hudl, or Dartfish. They typically allow video analysts or coaches to tag or bookmark different events during a match or game.

Binary Sports

[The video analyst website has curated the history of sports and performance analysis in a very cool timeline and is worth checking out here: link. Or if you are interested in a shorter read on technologies used in tactical anlysis, check out an older post I wrote – How Technology Helps Measure Soccer Statistics and Tactics.]

Manually measuring angles from a video frame

Besides doing notational analysis, the Binary Video Analysis app also does human motion analysis that is a bit similar to the Hudl Technique app or the Kinovea software for Windows. Then with the launch of ARKit 3 and the newer iOS devices, the team at Binary has recently incorporated using the body tracking camera and added pose estimation so metrics like joint angles, velocity and angular velocity can be tracked in real-time. You can find out more about their latest app release on the app store here: link; you can also check out this demo below of tracking a tennis serve (shoutout to TennisTechie who shared this):

And that is our top five sports tech news for April 2020. If you would like more information about any of the above, feel free to contact us or leave a comment below. If you enjoy our content, please do us a favour and share it around or subscribe to our blog/newsletter here: link. Thanks for reading!

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