Hello sports tech readers! It is that time every month where I pick out five amazing or innovative developments in the sports tech world and share it here. Yes, there is a change in the title. But the content remains largely similar and they still contain interesting innovations (in my opinion). Let me briefly explain the reason for the title change.
This series started out more or less as a “what exciting sports tech thing/event happened last month“. But as this (Top5SportsTechNews piece) progressed over the last 2 years, it is often not the case that the sports tech developments or happenings occurred in the past month. So after much thought, I have decided to rename this segment -> Sports Tech Shoutouts (of the month). In fact, this is basically what I have been doing all this while – giving sports tech establishments a mention or public acknowledgement, so that more people will find out and know about them. Labelling them “News” isn’t always the most accurate or appropriate.
Anyway, back to the main point of this post. Here’s a quick rundown:- we feature 3D motion tracking technology that is helping NFL hopefuls achieve their dreams, digital manufacturing technologies (ie 3D printing, 3D scanning and modelling) that is creating custom and optimum solutions to protect athletes, a wearable gait lab that is continually pushing for excellence, and a new smart gym that may not look much but it is truly challenging the norm. Let’s dive in.
EXOS Pilots 3D Athlete Tracking Technology Developed By Intel
EXOS is a company focused on human performance. They created a platform/system that organisations can use to help their people reach their potential. One area where EXOS excels in is improving performance in professional sports. Something they have become known for, is successfully preparing and training athletes to get picked by the NFL. In 2020, 83 out of 95 athletes in their program were selected in the NFL draft. Those 83 made up 32% of the total draft which is pretty significant.
For 2021, EXOS has teamed up with Intel to further enhance their program. They will be piloting Intel’s 3D Athlete Tracking (3DAT) technology to capture athlete movement data to better understand and improve their performance. This 3DAT technology does not require the athletes to wear anything or even have any markers. It simply relies on cameras to capture video footage. Then the video images are processed in the cloud using computer vision algorithms and artificial intelligence, creating pose estimations of the athletes and ultimately turning all the movement data into reports and charts that coaches can use to identify areas of improvements. Through this partnership, EXOS is also helping to validate the technology and provide feedback to the Intel team so that the engineers and developers can continue to innovate and improve on 3DAT or other technologies. Read more about their partnership here: link or check out their video below:
KAV Delivers 3D Printed Helmets For Improved Fit & Protection In Hockey
There are a number of challenges with Ice Hockey helmets in the market. Firstly, they are mass produced and cannot possibly fit every hockey player’s head; players may have to deal with some level of looseness or over-tightness in some parts of their head. Poor fit means less comfort and not so ideal protection. Another challenge with Ice Hockey helmets is thermal comfort and hygiene – trying to provide enough ventilation to keep the player cool while not letting sweat get trapped within the helmet and causing it to smell.
KAV addresses these challenges with their customisable helmet design that can be produced using additive manufacturing or 3D Printing. When players want to order a custom helmet, they first get a Fit Kit in order to measure some key dimensions of their head. Then using those dimensions, based on their proprietary design, KAV generates a helmet 3D model on their software and that gets made on their 3D printer. It looks like they work with the BCN3D Sigma printer that has a large print volume and could print the entire helmet in one piece or as they call it, a monocoque construction. Using 3D Printing has quite a few advantages. There’s the made-to-measure part so the helmet fits the athlete perfectly. Also, it allows the design of better airflow channels which otherwise would be difficult to include using traditional injection moulding methods. Read more about the KAV helmet in this review: link or check out their video below:
3D Printing Is Speeding Up The Process Of Making Custom Mouth Guards
Mouth guards help prevent trauma to the teeth, jaw and face; and to some extent, it could theoretically decrease some amount of impact from the jaw to the skull and thereby reducing the severity of concussion. There is also some evidence (e.g. link) to show that a custom/fitted mouthguard would perform better than a standard off-the-shelf one. The only thing is, the traditional way of getting a custom mouthguard made is a long and tedious process – from getting a dental impression, to casting a model, then creating the mouthguard typically using thermoforming. In addition, there are multiple small steps in-between and it varies among different dental practices or mouth guard makers (Here’s an example: link). Although athletes do get a well-fitted mouthguard with this manual process, the question is can digital technology improve the process?
When we talk about digital technology here, we are referring to 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies. There are a few companies that are currently using digital technologies to produce custom mouth guards and we will mention 2 here: 1) 3DMouthGuard and 2) Impact Gum Shields. But companies have relatively similar processes. They require athletes to have their upper jaws 3D scanned, the 3D models of the mouth are processed and a mouth guard is modelled and sent to the 3D printer. Biocompatible materials that are flexible and strong are used in the printing and they claim to take around 45 minutes. That is really quick. Another advantage of this is if the athlete loses the mouth guard, he/she just needs to order another one to be printed using the same 3D model (assuming they haven’t done any major dental work). You can read more about Impact’s gum shields here: link or check out 3DMouthGuard’s story below:
RunScribe Is Taking Their Gait Analysis Wearable To The Next Level
RunScribe has been in the running wearable (IMU) business for a number of years now (since 2014) and they have been continually improving their product offering and shifting their focus on areas where they have the biggest impact – professional applications (think physio, podiatrist, run coach, sports scientist etc). Just in the last 2 years, they have released a number of new features including: Shoe Prints metric, ability to add Runners, Run Comparison tool, Advanced metrics, Ride metrics, the additional Sacral pod sensor as well as a launching a Pro User course and a RunScribe PRO subscription.
This year (Mar2021), RunScribe has announced their next-gen sensor which they call the RunScribe Red. These RunScribe Reds do the same thing but they have updated hardware specs. They include longer battery life, better processor and flash memory, and improvements in sensors and sampling rate. So with these improved specs and capabilities, the RunScribe team can do much more with the data captured, providing additional metrics and visualisations. Looking at their future plans, an interesting one in the list is video integration. For those who are interested, the RunScribe Reds are currently on pre-order and would be available in June 2021. Read more here: link. If you are curious how the RunScribe Gait Lab works, check out this short video below:
Vitruvian Has Developed An Innovative Compact Smart Gym
Vitruvian is a fitness startup based in Perth, Australia, and they have developed a compact and versatile home gym/trainer. It was launched sometime in 2020 but the founder (Jon Gregory) had the idea almost 10 years ago. It was his personal experience with weight training equipment and personal training sessions that triggered a range of questions about how things should be improved with technology. Questions like: What if there is a machine/equipment that is smart enough to adjust the level of resistance that is optimum for the user? What if it collects the user’s training data for monitoring progress, provides a report, allows a personal trainer to be part of the process and it is all engaging and effective?
All those questions finally led to the invention and creation of the Vitruvian V-Form. The V-Form looks like a step-up platform with two cables, one coming up from each side, similar to cable machines. The difference is, instead of connecting to actual weights, the cables are connected to motors which can be electronically controlled to provide varying resistance up to 180kg. The system measures how fast/slow each rep is completed in each phase (concentric/eccentric), then the software and smart algorithms adjusts the resistance based on the user’s response to the resistance. Using the different accessories that can be attached to the cables, users can perform over 200 exercises. A connected app allows the user to choose from a library of workouts, sign up to advanced tracking and also premium workout content and live classes etc. Find out more about how it all works on their support page here: link or check out their intro video below:
And that is our sports tech shoutouts for Mar 2021. 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, feel free to share it using the links below or subscribe to our blog here: link. As always, thanks for reading!