Howdy! In case this is the first time you are reading this, this is a Sports Technology Blog monthly feature where we curate and share five interesting, innovative and invigorating news that we came across in the last month from the sports tech world. We call this the Top 5 Sports Tech News. Strictly speaking, not all the things we share happened in the last month but rather it came to our attention during that period. Most of the time, they are quite recent. Or sometimes, we just want to highlight an innovative startup or technology. Whatever the case, I believe this is the right spot for that. In this edition, there are a couple of cool products and technologies that has cameras and smarts (AI), there are startups/businesses who already have products in the market but recognised other needs and decided to fill that gap. Then lastly, I decided to feature a sport that doesn’t get enough mainstream coverage – Fencing. So without further
boo boo ado, here’s our top 5 ->
Tempo Is The Other Smart Home Gym To Look Out For
The home gym equipment market is definitely on a rise this year. With ‘isolations’ and ‘lockdowns’ and whatever term it is called in different parts of the world, more people are working out at home instead of out in the parks or gyms. Yes, there are many workouts that one could do at home with bodyweight exercises and high intensity interval training (HIIT). There are lots of youtube videos of people doing 20 minute exercises that we can follow. But maybe after a while, all that gets a bit stale. And maybe we prefer to have ‘connected’ workouts, or quantified workouts (if its not tracked, its not counted?), or workouts with feedbacks etc. All that points to Smart home gyms; and one Smart home gym startup that has gotten a bit of attention recently is Tempo.
Some has called it the ‘Mirror competitor’ but I reckon it is quite different. Firstly it has a motion tracking camera with time-of-flight tracking much like the Kinect and it is integrated into the bottom of the portrait screen. That camera system detects the user during a workout, and virtually creates a 25 joint skeleton to represent the user and tracks them (the 25 joints) in the 3D space. The system is then able to measure range of movement, count your reps, analyse your technique and give feedback on good form or things to improve on. Secondly, Tempo includes a set a dumbells, barbell and plate weights (adding up to 115lbs), a heart rate arm band, mat and roller. How it all comes together is very aesthetically pleasing and the weights pack away nicely within and on the back of the unit. The form definitely follows the function. Then coupled with daily live and on-demand classes (at $39 per month), I reckon that should end any of those ‘boring workout days’. They have recently raised some funding which means they are now positioned to grow further. You can read more about Tempo in this Wired review: link, or check out their video below:
Pixellot Partners With Barça Innovation Hub To Automate Recordings On The Field
Barça Innovation Hub, as its name hints, is a centre for innovation in sports technologies. Their goal (as described on their website) is to create an ecosystem that bolsters knowledge and innovation. The three key things they do is 1) Produce and share knowledge through collaborative applied research projects, 2) Codevelop products and services with suitable partners, and 3) Promoting this ecosystem and bringing together leading entities and minds working in sports. Recently they signed a partnership with Pixellot to further develop and deliver AI-Automated coaching solutions to football clubs and academies around the world.
Pixellot is a sports video technology company who has developed automated sports production solutions which covers video capture, product and distribution. Their technology includes an unmanned multi camera system that is capable of capturing sports footage on an entire field using panoramic capture and stitching the images together. Its advanced auto-production mechanisms tracks the flow of play, identifies highlights, creates replays and inserts advertisements without a human operator. Add to that, their analytics, video editing, annotation and self coding tools/platform brings solutions for coaches, analysts and athletes. They have already been working with FC Barcelona for the past 3 years, supplying the club with this technology and with this renewed partnership, there is a focus on the development and further commercialisation of Pixellot Coaching to academies, clubs and leagues. Part of that includes the discovery of new features, more meaningful analysis and media capabilities. They also aim to reach more coaches and analysts around the world. In essence, this partnership means both parties are leveraging on each other’s strengths to have a greater impact on the wider sports community. You can read more about it here: link and do check out Pixellot’s video below explains how they work:
Capital Football Partners With RefLIVE To Support Local Referees
RefLIVE is a sports technology startup that built a product to support referees and help leagues monitor their referees’ well-being. It might be shocking to hear but statistics reveal that most leagues lose around 40% of their referees every year. There could be different reasons why that happens but one likely cause of it is abuse from fans, players and even parents. Rules and regulations have been implemented to address the abuse situation and there are also counselling to help referees cope with that. But there really hasn’t been any quantifiable tools to help referees with their performance. That is where RefLIVE has stepped in to fill that gap.
When RefLIVE first launched, they developed a Smartwatch app for referees to log everything using the watch interface and skip using a pen and paper. This includes things like tracking stoppages, substitutions, fouls and even noting down certain details. Further to helping referees with optimising their workflow, the Smartwatch app could also track the referees’ movement and activity on the field which contributes to fitness and heat map data. As RefLIVE grew, they quickly recognised that more could be done to assist referees in managing their well-being and performance and that’s when their Referee Management System was created. Now with the RefLIVE Match Official App, referees can create a report for each game where they rate the different aspects of the game including the home team behaviour towards referees, the away team behaviour towards referee, the overall match experience, how physically tired they feel after the game etc. Referees can also be assessed and evaluated by the league. All the reports and assessments are logged on the Referee Manager dashboard which collates all the data for the league so administrators can easily identify when referees are at risk and needs support or clubs that have behaved poorly towards referees and requires addressing. Capital Football is one of the latest groups that signed up with RefLIVE. There is a huge welcome by local referees in Canberra because this means greater visibility on situations during matches that is backed by quantified metrics. Read more about the partnership here: link or simply watch the interview below:
Kinexon’s Wearable Smart Tags Deployed For Distancing & Contact Tracing In NBA And NFL
In the sports technology world, Kinexon has been known for their player tracking technology on the court and field. Instead of GPS, they utilise UWB (ultra wide band) radio technology to provide real-time localisation/positioning. Their sensors are worn on athletes or integrated inside a ball or puck and they can be tracked with centimetre accuracy. This not only gives position, speed, acceleration data of the athletes, it captures other parameters such as jump and impacts; and the system also provides tactical analysis tools that allows 2D visualisation of on-field movements and automatically detect game patterns and tactical behaviours etc.
Using their expertise in position tracking in sports and performance analysis, and in light of the current Covid situation, they developed the SafeZone system to ensure that people are maintaining their distance away from each other and keeping track of ‘contacts’ or when people were within 1.5m (or just over 5 feet) of each other and the duration of those ‘contacts’. Developed initially with the work force in mind (especially in cases where people are in shared work spaces), it soon became apparent that this is very applicable in sports leagues. Both the NFL and NBA have implemented Kinexon’s SafeZone tags to keep everyone within their facilities safe. There are a few key things to note about this system: 1) It relies on the same RF technology they use for sports and not Bluetooth, so it tracks distance between tags with much better accuracy, 2) Each tag will alert the wearer when they are too close to someone else for too long, and 3) In the event that one of the players or staff was tested positive for Covid, the organisation can easily trace all contact points and react timely and accurately. Read more about NFL and NBA’s decision to use Kinexon’s SafeZone tag here: link; and learn more about how the SafeZone tag works in the video below:
How Motion Capture And AR Makes Fencing More Enjoyable For The Masses
This starts-off from a pretty old story where Dentsu Lab Tokyo was tasked (back in 2013) to help more people understand the sport of fencing and enjoy it more as a spectator. Many would know that Fencing is considered one of the oldest sports in history. Sadly not many people understand its rules and can only follow the score board and/or the cheers of people who do know. So in collaboration with Japan’s first Olympic fencing medalist, Yuki Ota, and Rhizomatiks, the project “Fencing Visualized” was born.
What they came up with was firstly a pictorial representation of different fencing techniques. They specially designed different icons to intuitively represent the different moves. They also used Motion Capture to track a fencer performing all the moves. Then machine learning was applied to recognise and identify the different moves. So during a fight (with the fencers being tracked), the system identify specific techniques/moves and show the matching icons on screen so spectators will know what just happened. On top of that, they used Augmented Reality (AR) to further visualise the movement of the tip of the sword. The complex trajectory of the sword tip gets displayed (again on screen) and this allow viewers to fully appreciate how much goes into a move which would otherwise be typically a blur because of how fast the sword moves. The outcome of this work was also presented in the Tokyo Olympics bid and contributed to the success. Since then, this has also been used in competitions including the Fencing World Cup in 2019. Find out more about the project back story here: link, and check out this video of what it looks like live on stage:
And that is our top five sports tech news for July 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. As always, thanks for reading!