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Sports tech is turning us into professional athletes… well, almostDate Posted: 2 May, 2018
On the 22nd April, 40,255 people crossed the London Marathon finish line. It was Eliud Kipchoge who broke the ribbon, powered by the world-first, 3D-printed performance running shoe – the Nike Flyprint, built to get him over the line in less than two hours. While Kipchoge didn’t manage to achieve the goal of #breakingtwo, Nike proved that with every 100 grams that is removed from the shoe, a runner gains one percent in running economy – and they made it happen with the help of state-of-the-art 3D printing technology.
It’s not just professionals who are benefiting from the innovations of sports tech. In fact, from Parkrun to grassroots football, all over the world, we’re seeing ‘normal’ people make marked improvements thanks to the latest devices.
Closing the gap between amateurs and elite athletes
An active lifestyle is increasingly encouraged in today’s society and normal punters are becoming more interested in taking it up a notch, improving efforts and analysing performances. It’s thanks to wearable sports tech that they’re able to do so. In particular, with its provision of data that anyone is able to interpret and act upon.
Boxing tracker Corner, for example, is paving the way towards changing not only how boxers train, but how the sport is refereed throughout the world. Its technology provides users with data such as how hard and fast they’re punching, or which combinations they favour – in time, this will allow referees to make far more informed decisions on which boxer has been the best in the ring.
dorsaVi is another example of cutting edge sports tech that has been transferred into use for consumers. The company’s wireless technology is designed to measure and analyse the way we move, helping you and I work out which running shoes are best to buy, the training programmes we should be following, or where we’re at higher risk of injury.
Previously, such data was only attainable in an expensive lab, accompanied by scientists trained to give advice based upon it. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that runners had to use their car’s odometer to measure their route. Now, the simplest of fitness trackers can tell us distance, pace, heart rate and more. What’s more, they’re affordable: Wareable’s 2017 Wearable of the Year, the Fitbit Alta HR, can be picked up for just £130.
Owning our performances
Sports tech allows us to build a picture of our whole world and truly take ownership of our performances on the track, field or pitch. Harnessing the data achieved from devices such as connected scales, running watches, fitness trackers or sleep monitors, we can begin to understand the reasons behind a bad training session or game, digging much deeper than, “It wasn’t my day”, “Did I have a bad sleep?”, “What did I eat differently?”.
Everything is now measurable and can be taken into consideration when it comes to planning our training down to the time of day we head out, what we eat during the day and how far we push ourselves.
The competitive edge
These days, we also have the means to draw comparisons from our own performances against a network of people: we’re looking at you Strava and Endomondo. While this appeals to those of us with a competitive streak, it also provides a goldmine of information we can analyse, learn and test. For example, a runner, can search Strava to see how other similarly experienced runners have paced successful races and try these techniques for themselves.
Playertek, the GPS tracking system that analyses and improves individual and team performances, offers a similar function for footballers. Providing over six million data points per match, players and coaches are able to capture every move made on the pitch and make improvements to suit. It also benchmarks individuals against professional players, offering a nice ego boost to be told you’ve had a game like Lionel Messi.
Future gazing: human vs virtual coaches and the role of AI
While coaches aren’t yet side-lined, regular developments in AI means sports tech is starting to challenge their function more and more.
AI coaches, present in devices such as Moov, Carv and Oakley Radar Pace, work to decipher the data they provide, making it more actionable – telling you to push harder, increase your cadence or amend your technique, all in real time. This technology is sure to keep improving too. While the power of a human coach with whom you have a personal relationship is unparalleled to many, there’s no question that AI coaches are creeping closer and closer.
No matter how many wearables we arm ourselves with, a sub-two-hour marathon or Messi-esque performance just isn’t within reach for most of us. However, the connected athlete is certainly more likely to inch at least that little bit closer, and we’re looking forward to seeing how these innovations evolve.
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