News & Events Sports Technology

Top 5 Sports Tech News – Sep 2020

Welcome to the Top5SportsTechNews of September 2020. We have a bunch of visual related news, from computer vision to visual and sensory performance training and an augmented reality heads-up display. We also have innovations in video analysis as well as female-centred protective gear.

September would have been the month that the Tokyo Paralympics ended but as we all know, that is postponed. There was a few canceled marathons including the Boston and the Berlin Marathons, and the IAU 100k World Championships. The World Table Tennis Championship was also postponed till next year. On the bright side, the French Open that was meant to take place in May/June moved into the month of September (and October). But then that meant the Laver Cup had to be cancelled because of conflicting dates. So as we can all see, we are all just adjusting as we progress into the year and nothing is very straightforward. Even though most of the world is experiencing the same pandemic, there isn’t one solution/approach that works for everyone – it all depends on the individual countries’/states’ situation. An approach that might have worked for country A may not work for country B, and may not even continue to work for the same country as time progresses because something changed. Adjustments are necessary. And in the sports startup world, adjustments are just part and parcel of it all. If we don’t shift at the opportune time, things don’t happen the way we would like them. But enough of that, here is five sports tech news that we feel is worth your time:

SevenSix Player App Adopts Computer Vision Technology To Analyse Tennis Swings

SevenSix is a Norwegian startup that aims to use digital technologies to improve the way tennis players train and get coaching. They first built an online platform for coaches and players to connect simply via remote video coaching. This meant that tennis players can get access to experienced coaches from around the world, while coaches have a wider reach and opportunity to get more students. Essentially, the platform allows a player to upload video clips of their tennis plays and share it with the coach they selected. Besides videos, data from smart courts or sensors (e.g. Fitbit, Zepp, Babolat Play/PIQ) can also be integrated. Then the selected coach, after viewing all the provided data, will create a report giving the player feedback and pointers – suggesting ways to improve and drills to perform. Charts, images and videos can be added to the report to provide additional context.

More recently, SevenSix has built a player app that utilises computer vision technology to analyse tennis swings. All the player needs is an iPhone and a tripod (or some way to hold the iPhone) to film the tennis swing. Then the app (relying on AI and pose estimation libraries) will detect body movement, analyse the swing curve, timing and impact point. On replaying the swing on the app, players will be able to see an overall score for that swing and a breakdown analysis of those metrics (curve, timing, and impact point) with pointers of how they can improve their swing. The scores are based on metrics of a Pro player, so the higher a player’s score means the closer they are to a Pro player. This app is a great add-on to the SevenSix existing online platform because it removes the need for additional sensors or devices and simply relies on videos. The app is currently only available on the iPhone and works on devices that run iOS 13 or newer. It does require a monthly or annual subscription but users can try it for free for 30 days. Find out more about the app on their website – link or check out their demo video below:

Dartfish & VS. Sports Team Up To Provide Dynamic Dashboards, Automatically Generated From Tagged Data

Soccer Tagging Panel

Dartfish has been in the game of sports video analysis since 1999 with their first solutions of SimulCam which is for comparing two performances at the same time and StroMotion which is a tool for freezing images in a video to illustrate how the movement took place. Since then, they have developed content platforms like DartfishMoves and DartfishTV, and later the ability for users to tag events on the videos online. Their main video analysis products for coaches and athletes now include Dartfish Mobile, 360, 360 S, Live S, Pro and Pro S, where the Pro and Pro S includes the SimulCam and StroMotion tools.

Dashboard

Their video tagging and notational analysis solutions have mostly been generic and analysts can customise their tagging panel and shortcuts according to their own needs. But recently, Dartfish created a soccer specific solution – that is, a ready configured soccer panel that is meant to be simple and efficient to use. The soccer panel can be downloaded onto the 360 S or Live S products. Further to that, Dartfish has partnered with VS. Sports to launch a dashboard with auto-generated metrics derived from the tags created using the soccer tagging panel. From the dashboard, users are able to generate dynamic reports where the stats are linked to the video. In a nutshell, this new integrated solution is supposed to improve the workflow of soccer coaches/analysts while enabling them to quickly identify key trends efficiently. You can read more about their partnership and solution here: link. Or check out their tutorial demo below:

Source: Dartfish

Athletic Club Signs Innovation Agreement With Senaptec And Acceler8

Athletic Club or Athletic Club de Bilbao has recently signed a collaborative agreement with Senaptec and Acceler8 Performance to improve their players’s performance through proper visual and sensory training. Senaptec is a biotech company that focuses on sensory performance. They have developed hardware technology (stroboscopic eyewear) and tools to assess athletes’ sensory performance and identify specific sensory parameters they can work on further to help reach their full potential. The vital piece of this Senaptec partnership is providing the Strobes eyewear to the club for vision training. Some people might remember the Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobe eyewear that came out during the early 2010s and the idea is exactly the same. In fact, one of the cofounders of Senaptec was from Nike and helped developed the SPARQ system. So it is no surprise that the Senaptec Strobe looks similar and from reviews it seems Senaptec has also improved on some the shortcomings of the Vapor Strobe.

Acceler8’s Scientific Method (source: Acceler8)

Another piece of the partnership is Acceler8 Performance. Dr Erez Morag, the founder of Acceler8, has developed a working model for training cognitive abilities in high performance athletes. A big part of that includes visual and sensory training. Interestingly, he also has a connection with Nike, having previously been a senior researcher at the Nike Sports Research Lab and subsequently the Head of the Nike Athlete Performance Insight Group. All in all, this agreement means a combination of improved strobe hardware and proven training process and we should see great things from the club in the near future. Read more about this in their press release – link and also check out this video intro of Senaptec below:

Ghost Pacer Is An On-Demand Augmented Reality Running Partner

Running outdoors alone can be an enjoyable exercise especially if one enjoys solitude or wants to have their ‘me’ time. But for times when a runner needs a bit of a push to reach a running target or to improve their timing, a running partner can be very helpful. Sure, there’s the running watch that shows the current distance, timing and pace, but looking down at the wrist watch every few minutes can get tiring and I am not sure it does much in terms of motivating. Having someone to run together with provides that healthy amount of pressure to keep up or even push each other. The tricky thing about a running partner is coordinating schedules.

Ghost Pacer is a startup that came up with an interesting solution for runners who need a running partner to push them but can’t find one easily. They developed an augmented reality (AR) glasses/headset that shows the wearer a 3D running avatar in front of them running at a pace that can be preset. So for example, if a runner would like to stick to a 5min/km pace for a particular route, they can set that up on the app just before the run, then put on the headset as they start their run. The running avatar/pacer will show up within the headset and be running at the 5min/km pace; and all the runner has to do next is keep up with the AR pacer. Besides creating an AR pacer, a runner can also run against a previous timing they ran themselves or by a friend. The headset consists of a GPS, IMU and the Pro version also pairs with running watches with heart rate sensors. It also displays running metrics as an overlay which means there’s no need to look down at the watch. It’s a pretty cool combination and application of AR headset/heads-up display and they can still be pre-ordered on Indiegogo here: link. You can also check out their crowdfunding video below:

Zena Is the Most Advanced Female Impact Protection Vest

In sports, as we all know, athletes today compared to years ago, are running faster and lifting heavier and going harder. It is evident in the achievements that are being made and the records that are being broken. At the same time, we can see that there are more injuries from overuse or overtraining and injuries due to collision and impact that are getting more serious because the impacts are harder. For the last point, those injuries due to impact can be minimised sometimes with rules or better technique training but the more common way of dealing with it is better protective gear (where it is allowed). In lots of contact sports, head impact has probably gotten the most attention in recent years. But there is an area that has not been properly covered and that is breast injuries in contact sport.

Zena Z1 Impact Vest (source: Zenasport.co)

Zena Sport is a Melbourne startup that identified this gap and gone through research and development to produce an impact protection vest specifically for the female athlete in contact sports. The founders of Zena first realised that with the rapid growth of the Women’s Australian Rules Football League (AFLW), more adolescent girls were at risk of getting injuries. They got concerned as to how it might affect the girls’ as they were at a critical stage of physical development. This led them to do a more thorough research (which hasn’t been done before) and it affirmed the need for a purpose-designed protective garment and further to that, to educate female athletes of the risks from breast injuries due to contact sports (including other codes of football, basketball, combat sports etc). A collaboration with Deakin’s Centre For Sport Research meant that Zena’s protective vest was tested and validated to be able to absorb impact. Read more about Zena’s research partnership with Deakin here: link or check out their video below:

And that is our top five sports tech news for September 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!

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