Welcome to the 2020 June edition of our #Top5SportsTechNews. I sincerely hope and pray that if you are reading this, that you are coping well wherever you are, and not too overwhelmed by all that is happening. There are many news reports about the current pandemic that appear each day, some positive, some negative and some contradictory or even confusing. What we all need is truth but the funny thing is not many of us like to hear/embrace the truth. Besides truth, I believe we also need lots of empathy and if possible, better thinking outside the box. Empathy helps us understand the situation of others, their feelings and their perspective. Then guided by that (empathy), thinking outside the box allows us to come up with better solutions for others. Not solutions that used to (or even sort of) work, but solutions that will work going forward into the new normals and solutions that focus on what’s truly important and removes the frills or distractions. Perhaps I am too idealistic. But the idealist in me is happy to have found our top 5 below, which I will simply leave you to it:
Archinisis Launches Performance Analysis Product For Track And Field Athletes
Archinisis is a sports tech startup based in Switzerland. It was born to meet a need that ski and snowboard coaches had – the need for a better way to track and understand the performance of their athletes. Dr Benedikt Fasel, the founder, developed software and algorithms combined with existing motion (IMU) sensors to deliver a complete solution for performance analysis of cross-country skiing and biathlon athletes. Athletes just need to put on a vest (or tank top) that holds the IMU on their back (similar to athlete tracking in team sports), make sure it’s On, and start their training session. After training, the IMUs have to be plugged in to have their data downloaded and within minutes, coaches can analyse the athletes’ performance on the Archinisis web interface. The algorithms that Archinisis developed are specific to each sport so that they provide relevant performance metrics, analysis and technique classifications.
Recently, Archinisis have been working hard to bring their analysis solution to summer sports. More specifically, Track and Field. Launched in June, the disciplines that are now supported include sprinting, hurdles and long jump, with high jump and pole vault coming in the near future The hardware side of things remains the same (IMU in vest). The difference, or, the real value is in the algorithms for processing and breaking down the data for analyses. The parameters that are analysed can be found here. For coaches that take videos, there is a synchronisation unit that automatically synchs the video with the sensor data. This allows graph overlays on the video and can be a great tool for further analysis and coaching purposes. In fact, if athletes have the right recording equipment (camera, tripod etc), they can train on their own, upload their data and video, while their coach analyse their performance and give feedback remotely. Early testers have already found the system beneficial, for example, athletes in long jump found that they could easily identify from the data how they could implement a more optimal jump strategy and improve their performance. Read more about their product launch here in this page: link. Also check out the video below where the founder pitches the Archinisis solution for elite sport performance analysis:
Sports Tech Research Network (STRN) Facilitates Multidisciplinary Expert Collaborations
Sports Technology products and solutions are quite often tied closely to some amount of university research and validation. The collaboration could have been sparked off by entrepreneurs or businesses needing that extra edge in their product development and they reach out to a university; OR universities might have developed an innovation (and/or intellectual property) and they reach out to potential industry partners to try and commecialise that innovation – either that or the researchers themselves might form a startup (as we see in the above story). No matter how the collaboration started, it is hard to deny that when good collaborations happen, they can led to some good outcomes – more value adding products and services that can takes sports to the next level. But trying to find the right connections between startups or industry and universities or researchers isn’t very straightforward. Researchers will not be aware of all the different problems the industry are trying to solve, and likewise people in the industry do not know what kinds of innovative research are being worked on. The most common way those connections happen tend to be serendipitous (ie by chance).
The folks at Victoris (a sports innovation consortium based in Ghent University) decided to form a network with the goal of bridging the gap between the academia, the industry and the aplication side of Sports Tech, to facilitate breakthrough innovations relevant for sports at a global scale. Dubbed the Sports Tech Research Network (STRN), they aim to achieve the following:
- Providing access to experts in various disciplines so that interested parties can follow their work and set-up new conversations
- Knowledge and capabilities sharing/showcasing
- Identify partners for inspiring interactions, collaborations and commercialisation projects
- Collectively map the most promising innovations from related research fields.
- Communicate the top challenges from corporations, leagues, clubs, startups etc
This is a bold and exciting initiative that has lots of potential and it will be interesting to see the development process. For people who are keen to take part, they should join the STRN LinkedIn group to stay up to date with what’s happening. Read more about this initiative here: link or check out their promo video below:
STRAFFR’s Resistance Band Is Designed To Be A Portable Smart Gym
Resistance bands are really versatile and can be used to perform heaps of exercises. As far as I remember, resistance bands started off being a rehabilitation equipment. If I had an injury or worse, a surgery, I would go to a physiotherapist during the recovery process and I would be prescribed exercises using a resistance band. It usually starts from using the band with the lightest resistance and work my way up to bands with higher resistance. But these days, resistance bands are practically used for all different stages of training and strength and conditioning. Depending on the type of exercise (and also the type of resistance band), the band needs to be anchored at one point or two, with another part of the band being pulled or pushed during the exercise. There’s been lots of design variations in resistance bands: there are the simplest ones that are just a long band (like a rope) and there are ones where some form of a handle is attached to the ends. There are the closed looped ones that look like a gigantic rubber band. Then there are different type of band materials or construction – thin flat bands, thicker bands, tube type bands etc. Other than that, there has been little changes or updates to resistance bands.
STRAFFR has taken a big step forward in their resistance band design – they designed and developed a smart resistance band. How is it smart? The entire resistance band is a sensor where it can measure the force applied to the band each time it stretches. It can track a user’s resistance band exercises and provide metrics to the user such as power and velocity of each repetition and also counts the number of reps for that exercise. The STRAFFR App provides the interface to communicate with the smart resistance band, run the different exercises and also keeps track of the users training sessions. The team at STRAFFR worked with physiotherapists and personal trainers to design over 50 exercises to workout with the band; and for each exercise, there are real-time corrective feedback to help users perform those movements properly. Depending on the goals set by the user, the app configures the most appropriate training plans to help achieve the user’s goal. And with the smart resistance band being so small and portable, it would work really well for athletes who travel around a fair bit and may not get access to a gym all the time. The smart resistance band comes in two resistance levels (10kg/22lbs and 20kg/44lbs) and it is still available for pre-order at their special pricing here: link. You can also check out their crowdfunding video below:
MoonRun Wants To Disrupt Indoor Running & Cardio Workouts
MoonRun is a company based in Israel that wants to disrupt indoor running and cardio workouts with their portable and gamifiable solution – the MoonRun CONNECT. The reason they started out on this is because they identified a number of limitations with treadmills. Firstly, tradmills are typically big and bulky and take up a permanent spot in the home. Sure, there are treadmills that can be folded up and put aside but they still take up a sizable footprint or those that can really be packed and stored away look like they just require too much effort. Secondly, they see that the monotonous one-directional running imposed by the treadmill is not natural compared to running on a trail outside. Thirdly, although there are gamified running applications that work with treadmills, for safety reasons, gaming developers cannot include fast pace interactive functions while running on the treadmill such as sudden turns, directional jumping, squatting and turning. Cost of treadmills are also pretty high.
So with the design of MoonRun CONNECT, it aims to resolve all of the above limitations. Their patented design is a compact portable system that when used, looks like the user is running on the spot while being held back by elastic straps. One end of the straps needs to be anchored, like on the top of hinged door, and the opposite end of the straps is a bar/pad where the user is pushing forward with their belly/pelvis while running. There are also straps for the arms that can act as additional resistance training or possibly help provide stability to the user. Besides running forward, users can easily do side steps or jumps during their runs and even switch around to running backwards. In addition to that, running this way is also meant to reduce knee impacts. Central to all the hardware that enables indoor running is the actual connected part. Sensors in the front pad tracks the movements of the user during running and captures all the basic metrics of running like speed and distance. Users can then run with the MoonRun App (that reads all the sensor data) and have their connected device placed in front of them so they can see their running metrics live. There are options to run with a pacer or other MoonRun CONNECT users which can feel like running together with other people while in isolation. MoonRun CONNECT also integrates/works with other apps such as Arcade Fitness, Zwift, Kinomaps and Strava. Find out more about their connected running options here: link or have a look at their intro video below:
Nike Designed A New Football With Consistent Flight
The soccer ball or the football (depending on which part of the world we are in), essentially have 2 main components – the bladder and the outer cover. Since the bladder is more or less the same, most of the innovations or improvements over the years have been around the outer cover. From the material of the cover (leather or synthetic leather or PVC) to the shapes and number of the panels that form the roundness of the ball and how the the panels are joined/fused together (stitching or glue), the goals of manipulating those designs or configurations have also moved from making the balls more durable or all-weather to allowing the balls to perform better. Of course when we say that the balls perform better, we really mean that soccer players can have a better handle/control of how the ball moves on the ground and where the ball lands after a kick. In the past, some of the balls that have moved away from the classic 32 panel designs and have made claims to improved performance include:
- the Jabulani (by adidas) – an 8-panel design that was meant to make it more round and smooth and have less drag. But there were mixed feedback from players with some saying it was ‘unpredictable’. Researchers from NASA concluded that due to its smoother surface, the “knuckling” effect took place at higher speeds compared to older balls.
- the Brazuca (by adidas) – a reduced 6-panel design that is thermally bonded with 3 times deeper seams so that it has less drag. It also has dimples on its surface which adds a “roughness” and allows it to be more stable during flight.
- the Ardem 3 (by Nike) – has 12-panels fuse welded together and features the ‘Aerotrack’ grooves that help ensure a steady flow of air across the ball. The surface is also textured for a similar “roughness” effect. It has been noted that the patterned grooves could show erratic flight if it is spinning very slowly during its travel.
Fast forward to today, Nike, after spending 8 long years of investigation into creating a consistent football flight, and made 68 different iterations in the process, finally produced the Nike Flight Ball. Created and tested in the Nike Equipment Innovation Lab, they setup tracking systems to measure the flight of different kicks, and used a robotic leg to perform repeatable and quantifiable kicks, and they then had many many professional athletes take part in field tests. One feature included in this design is the AerowSculpt which is an improvement from the Aerotrack grooves – a modified (groove) shape with sculpted chevrons. The panels have also been reduced to 4 while using the same fuse-welded construction approach. Again, all this is with the aim of a more stable and consistent flight. Read more about the Nike Flight on their website: link, and check out their promo video below:
And that is our top five sports tech news for June 2020. If you would like more information about any of the above, or if something sparked an idea and you would like to chat about it, 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 hanging out!