News & Events Sports Technology

Top 5 Sports Tech News – Oct 2020

We are coming towards the end of 2020! Just a couple more months till we welcome 2021. Here's a reflection of October and some interesting tech that we have uncovered. Our Top 5 for the month includes tech that improves running, tech that makes workouts fun and motivating, plus tech and research that pushes the boundaries of performance. [Feature image source: Eliud Kipchoge official FaceBook page - https://bit.ly/EliudKipchogeFB]

Looking back at October, it felt like the month just flew past really quickly or we could basically say the same for the whole of 2020 so far. There has been some positives (amidst the cancelled sporting events) where for example here in Australia, the Aussie Rules Football (AFL) managed to finish the 2020 season with the Grand Final that took place in Brisbane. The possibility of that happening was due to some tough decisions that were made by the league and various clubs to move from Victoria to Queensland. The alternative of not moving could have led to a non-season altogether. Similarly, Formula 1 had lots of changes since the beginning of the year and introduced many new and one-off race venues (3 of them happened in October) so that enough races could be completed for the season. In running, the London Marathon took place which was rescheduled from April and they limited the event to elite participants to keep the numbers small. Lots of measures were taken to ensure that the event was safe including using the wearable ‘Bump’ device which gives out an audio warning when people wearing the device are too close to each other. These are just some examples of some innovative thinking to keep sports events moving forward. It will be interesting to see how these will evolve into the future. In the meantime, here is our Top 5 sports tech news:

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RunScribe Launched Additional Sacral Sensor To Complement Existing Shoe Pod Sensors

Eliud Kipchoge with RunScribe shoe pods (Source:- https://twitter.com/eliudkipchoge/status/1157207021290184709)

RunScribe is a startup that is focused on helping athletes run better using their wearable sensors. When I say ‘run better’, I mean to run with better technique or better form and that leads to less chance of injury (or no injuries) which means the ability to train longer and ultimately achieve better performance. Launched on kickstarter back in 2014, RunScribe first developed two shoe pod sensors that were meant to be mounted on the heel of the shoes. The sensors were subsequently repositioned to be secured on the laces. Essentially, the two shoe pod sensors collect 3d motion data of a runner’s feet during a run; then the app will analyse that data and provide lots of metrics that indicate how well (or not) a runner did. Like any other startups, things have evolved since then as the RunScribe team learns from community feedback and just observing how the sensors (and data) are used. One of those things include shifting their focus to the professional market (elite/clinicians/research) where there is more productive use.

The RunScribe Pods

More recently, in line with their vision to be a comprehensive running tool, they have launched an additional Sacral sensor to capture data from the runner’s hips. They recognise that there are limitations to how much could be gathered simply on shoe sensors. Metrics such as contact time, impact, ground reaction force and leg spring stiffness are influenced from more distal body functions, in particular the hip-pelvic area. Having the additional Sacral sensor pod means a more objective measure rather than having to second guess the possible scenarios based on the shoe pod measures. The Sacral pod looks similar to the shoe pods and it can be clipped onto the runner’s waist band or running belt. They believe that with this 3 pod system (or RunScribe Gait Lab), clinicians/coaches will be able to comprehensively assess runners and identify movement dysfunction, isolate the potential cause and reduce running injuries. Existing users who are interested can purchase the add-on Sacral pod on the RunScribe website, while new users have the option to purchase either the 2 or 3 pod system. You can find out more about the launch of the Sacral sensor here: link or check out their short explainer video below:

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JABII Launched An Exciting New Combat Sport That Is Safe & Engaging

The JABII & JABII App

Boxing is a high intensity sport where athletes have to be highly alert, making quick manoeuvres to dodge punches while looking for (precise) opportunities to score a punch and ultimately taking down the opponent. Even spectators can get pumped with adrenaline watching the fight. The downside of boxing is the aftermath where boxers end up with lots of injuries. JABII (a Danish startup) developed the JABII, a handheld boxing gadget (or I like to call it a prosthesis), that brings all the high intensity of boxing (physical activity + competitiveness) and takes away all the bruises associated with actual boxing. It is essentially a combination of boxing, fitness and digital gaming.

JABII in action

So how does it work? The JABII is like an extendable punching ‘fist’ which reaches up to 110cm when the user ‘attacks’. The ‘fist’ or the tip is encased in rubber so it only delivers a soft blow; and more importantly, the sensors encased inside the rubber quantifies the attack/punch and detects when the ‘punch’ did land on the opponent thus awarding a score to the user. The game (which requires two JABIIs) can be played in ‘Stand-Alone’ mode or users can download the JABII App and play it in App-Enhanced mode. In an App-Enhanced battle, the JABIIS are paired to the users’ JABII App where it stores stats of every game that were played. The App can also be used to video a live match while overlaying live scores and metrics of the players so it looks just like a video game. In fact, one of the goals of the founders was to use JABII to increase physical activity while keeping in engaging and fun. JABII is currently being crowdfunded on Indiegogo as this is written, and you can jump in here (link) to get the early bird prices. Also, check out their campaign video below:

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RAQTS Will Change The Way Tennis Players Practice Against The Wall

RAQTS – Interactive Tennis Wall

Playing against a wall has been the way tennis players practiced for the longest time. Players could be practicing forehand groundstrokes or volleys or backhand shots, and no matter what shot is sent, the wall will simply return it. Practicing against the wall is helpful for training control, form, footwork, concentration, consistency and so on. But let’s be honest, it can get boring very quickly especially for the next generation of players who are accustomed to video games and more interactive activities. So to address that, RAQTS was developed to make wall practice more fun and engaging. There are two main parts to the RAQTS solution – a hardware and the software. The hardware of RAQTS is an interactive wall designed and built by Multiball. The wall is a robust sensor frame fitted with a precise tracking system that can detect where the ball lands and it also has a motion tracking system that monitors movement of the players in front of the wall.

RAQTS – tracks your wall practice

Then there is the software (or 3rd party app) that runs on the interactive wall. Similar to an App store, Multiball has a platform where Apps can be developed using their SDK for different interactive activities; and Multiball is particularly keen to partner with domain experts to produce (3rd party) solutions that are of significant value – in this case, tennis training. The ‘brains’ of the RAQTS interactive tennis programs were developed by Alex Johansson and his team who has years of experience in tennis coaching and developing world class training programs – everything from target sizes to a player’s self perception has been taken into account. For RAQTS 1.0, the basics for interactive training, testing, and playing are put together in the modular app with over 10,000 possible variations of target and modes for players and coaches.  Not only will the interactivity keep younger players interested in practising, the objective statistics will also help them stay engaged and motivated knowing that they are making progress. Clubs and facilities that already have the Multiball (hardware) system can easily access the RAQTS program while others who are interested can simply reach out to the RAQTS team to find out more: link. In the meantime, check out their demo video below:

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HUUB & Fellowship Of Speed Developed Heated Trousers That Optimises Performance Of Track Cyclists

HUUB Design

HUUB is a company known for their performance apparel for endurance sports. From wet-suits to tri-suits, swim wear and cycling wear, HUUB seems to be constantly pushing themselves towards the forefront of maximising performance and comfort. One of the things they did was to form a group known as the “Fellowship Of Speed“. Made up of sports engineers, physiologists, nutritionists, olympians, experts in aerodynamics and biomechanics, the goal of the group, is to explore all the areas and opportunities (in swimming & cycling) for improvement and then improve them. The end result would be faster athletes. One of the outcomes of this collaborative effort is their heated trousers that keeps the legs of track cyclists warm. And not just warm, its optimum warm that will allow the cyclists to have optimum performance when they are on the track.

Denmark Men’s team at the 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships (Source: https://twitter.com/huubdesign/status/1232770391967490048)

So what’s the story behind it? In track cycling, athletes have quite a bit of down time between their warm up and them actually doing their track event. The purpose of the warm up is to raise the body temp and increase blood flow to the muscles so they are more elastic and aerobic. But if nothing is done during the down time, the muscles cool down and becomes no longer at the state where it could perform well at the actual event. So HUUB’s heat trousers is designed to fill that gap – to keep the athlete’s leg muscles warm with heating elements focused on the calves, quads and hamstring. The temperature can be maintained at 43 degrees C which based on research was found to be the optimum temperature for performance and reduced risk of injury. On top of that, psychologically/mentally, the warmth can help the athlete feel more ready to go and do their best. To top it off, results from the much earlier UCI Track Cycling World Cup seems to support the efficacy of the heated trousers with many athletes who wore it making it to the podium. Read more of that here: link. Or check out HUUB’s video below to learn more about this fellowship of speed collaboration:

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ONYX Is A Fitness App That Actually Tracks Your Workouts With The iPhone Depth Camera

ONYX App in action

This is the year where home workouts or home gym equipment has been trending for a bit. (I know, it’s actually more than a bit.) Here on STB, we have covered at least four different home workout products (in the last 4 months) that are smart – that is, they have some form of sensor/s or tracking mechanism so users know how hard they are training, have a record of their previous training sessions and most probably can connect with friends or compete with friends. All this is helpful because it keeps users motivated and accountable to stick to their workout goals. But needing another piece of equipment may be a barrier for some people for various reasons. What if we could track our workout with a device we may already own – like our smartphone?

iPhone App Screens

ONYX is a startup that did just that. They have developed an iPhone App that allows users to create workout plans, track how well they are doing each workout while getting real-time feedback and instructions. At the start of a workout, users place their iPhones either on a stand or leaning on a wall with the screen facing them. Then during the workout, the iPhone’s front facing camera and computer vision algorithms will track the users reps, assess the movement and the App provides an audio feedback to help users do better or keep going. People who are competitive or like to be motivated by competition can opt to have the leaderboard visible so they can see how close they are to beating their friends in that workout. One important note is that the camera tracking only works on the iPhones with the depth cameras (iPhone X or newer). People with older iPhones can still follow the video workouts with audio cues. An Android version seems to be in the works and people who are interested can sign up to be notified on their website. Read more about Onyx and their mission in this cool interview with Bullpen (link) or check out their video below:

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And that is our top five sports tech news for October 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, thank you for reading and stay safe!

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