5 Pieces of High-Tech Sports Equipment

We’ve all seen and read about fitness trackers such as the Nike+ Fuleband and the Up by Jawbone. These are phenomenal products, don’t get me wrong, but what types of smart sports equipment exists outside of these well-known wearable activity trackers? Interestingly, when researching for this piece, I had a hard time finding enough items to fill this list. I found a wide array of “concept” products but only a small range of actual consumer products on the market today. With more and more companies devoting research to “connected” products I’d expect this to change in the somewhat near future. For now though, you’ll just have to wait for your digital display swimming goggles or motion sensor football pads. Without further ado, here’s five innovative products for you active, data obsessed, individuals.

Zepp Baseball, Tennis and Golf Sensors – $150

zepp baseball

Zepp first debuted in late 2013 with smart sensor tracking for your baseball, tennis, and golf swings. The product itself is a little square tracker that you attach to your golf glove or the end of your baseball bat or tennis racket. After using your equipment you can then analyze different metrics via their app on your smartphone or tablet. For tennis you can see everything from how much spin you put on the ball to what % of your hits are backhand. They’ve recently just released 3D swing analysis for your racket that allows you to see the path your racket took and where you made contact with the ball. The same feature can be found in the baseball and golf sensors as well. Most of the metrics overlap as the motions for all three sports are somewhat similar. One of the unique metrics I found however, was for golf. When you are using the sensor if you place your phone in your pants pocket it will also track your hip rotation. This is an item I’ve actually had on my holiday list for quite some time now and what I think may be the best high-tech sports device on the market.

94Fifty Smart Basketball Sensor –   $250

94F-Ball-7_large

 

 

The Smart Sensor Basketball does what the Zepp products do, although the sensor isn’t attached to any part of the equipment, it’s inside of it. The Smart Sensor can track your shot speed, arc, and spin. It can also tell you how fast you are dribbling and with how much force. Perhaps the best part of this product is the adaptive workouts the app provides which takes your skills sets and creates custom workouts to improve upon the areas in which you lack. Say you need to improve your dribbling, with it’s audio enabled coaching it will coach you through a drill and then show you your results and then can compare that to the last three times you ran that drill. The only downside I can see from the product is a relatively short battery life, only 8 hours, but it does come with a wireless charger for the ball. Finally, you can choose from 50 drills or competitions and then challenge your friends to them through the app.

 

Adidas MiCoach Smart Ball – $299

Adidas Smart Ball

You may or may not have seen press about this Smart Ball recently due to a large World Cup marketing campaign by Adidas. I first saw the Smart Ball in a Men’s Health article about the World Cup which is actually what led me to write this post. The Adidas Smart Ball has a sensor secured inside the ball that ” detects speed, spin, strike and flight path data and instantly relays kick data to the miCoach app”. Not only can you view all this data on the app but you can also learn from it. The app will actually help instruct you on how to improve your ball handling  skills and also features “tips and training for power, bend and knuckle balls.” The ball does have to be charged after a week’s use but only requires an hour of charging time. Start tracking and training and maybe you’ll be the next Messi or Ronaldo playing in the World Cup!

 

Oakley Airwave 1.5 Smart Goggles -$650 (currently out of stock)

Oakley Goggles

Now this is what I picture whenever I think of high-tech sports equipment. The Oakley Airwave Goggles are basically the Google Glasses of the slopes. Their heads-up display allows the rider to see a perceived screen about five feet away from their physical body to read metrics such as speed, temperature, and navigation. The display can also show jump analytics such as height, distance covered in the air, and hang time. Furthermore, if your buddy has a pair of these goggles or is using the Airwave app on their phone you can track each other on the slopes. Lastly, the goggles can also connect to your smartphone and allow you to see incoming calls or text messages and will allow you to control your music. These goggles also offer every other high end feature you’d expect from Oakley such as anti-fog lenses and  full UV protection.

Riddell Revolution IQ Hits Helmet – $1,031

Football helmet
Over the past few years we’ve seen a huge surge in research and awareness about concussions related to football players. While most NFL teams and college teams have worked hard to implement smarter, stronger and safer equipment helmets for their players many younger players are still left at risk for traumatic head incidents. While this product is still, for the most part, highly unattainable for most youth players, at least it’s a start. The Riddell Revolution IQ Hits helmet builds off of the Riddell IQ helmets, which is known for it’s Z-pad technology which draws energy and force away from the skull, and adds some serious technology to enhance the product. HITS, or Head Impact Telemetry System, is designed to “monitor and record every significant incidence of head impact sustained during games and practice. On-board electronics measure and record the location, magnitude, duration and direction of head impacts and impact accumulations, allowing players to upload and evaluate each occurrence…” The helmet can also transmit information to local sideline computers during a game or practice so the medical staff could monitor a players health. As I mentioned earlier, the thousand dollar price tag is sure to make it an unrealistic idea that all participants would use this helmet. But hopefully, we will one day see a decrease in the cost of the technology and the eventual adaptation by full high school teams and junior leagues.

With any luck we’ll see more products coming to the market in the next few years but until then we have these awesome products to keep us occupied. If you think I’ve skipped any groundbreaking product please feel free to leave me a comment! I’d love to see what else is out there.

An Analysis of the 2013 NFL Sack Leaders

Let me first explain how I even got to the idea for this post. For those who don’t follow ESPN headlines compulsively, a few weeks ago, the NFL owners voted to host the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis at the new Vikings stadium that is being built in the next couple years. This got me thinking about football and how my beloved (yet infuriating) Dallas Cowboys released my all time favorite player, Demarcus Ware. Demarcus Ware is one of the all time greatest pass rushers to play the game and is on the short list  (18th) for most sacks in a career. That’s how I arrived at this thought; I wanted to know if there was any correlation between body size (height & weight) and sacks by the top NFL linesman from last season.

Now, this isn’t a scientific study, but it did lead to some interesting insights. But first, a few caveats. One, I chose to only look at last season (instead of multiple season averages) because, well, the game changes. New rules are implemented and game style changes year to year. This leads to different effects on pass rushing and I didn’t want to cross contaminate the different years. Second, I didn’t take into account speed. Obviously this is a huge factor. However, since there only exists regulated speed times (40 yd dash) from combines, these numbers are often outdated and skewed. Therefore, for this post at least, I’ve just looked at two factors that most likely have less volatility than a player’s sprint time: height and weight.

Using 2013 statistics from ESPN, I analyzed the height and weight of each of the top 100 sack leaders from last season. Robert Mathis led the pack with 19.5 sacks while the lowest  part of the top 100 had 4.5 sacks. From what I can tell, there was about 390 players who had at least half a sack last year so this is about a 25% sample size of the whole population, and of course these are the top performers. Below you can see the overall bubble chart showing each of the top 100 players. Feel free to visit my infogr.am to delve further into the details. Visiting the link will allow you to hover over each bubble which will display the name of each player as well as their height, weight, and how many sacks they had in 2013.

NFL Sack leaders compilation

Highlighted above in the graphic are the two sack leaders for last year (Robert Mathis and Robert Quinn) as well as three players I wanted to specifically point out as they are outliers in the overall group. Overall the top 100 sack leaders combined for 755 sacks last season. These players had an average height of 6′ 3″ (75″) and weighed 275 pounds. Robert Mathis, overall sack leader, is actually a bit smaller than the average standing an inch shorter and almost 30 pounds lighter than the rest of the group. However it is obvious that what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed. Robert Mathis when drafted in 2003 had a 40 time of 4.72. To put this into perspective, since 2006, only one other outside linebacker has had a fast 40 time at 4.71 (Terron Armstead). Here’s some other interesting insights from my analysis.

  • Above average performance, below average size – In 2013, Robert Quinn had the second most sacks in the season with 19, falling half a sack short of the leader. Robert Quinn is closer to the group average standing at 76″ and 264 pounds. This puts him only half an inch above the average and about 10 pounds below the average weight. Quinn’s 40 time is actually a hair faster than Mathis and was one of the top defensive lineman of his draft class running a 4.7 at the combine.
  • Small but effective – Elvis Dumervil, despite being significantly smaller than the rest of the group put up great numbers in 2013 with 9.5 sacks. This is effectively two more than the average for the top 100 group. Interestingly, it doesn’t appear to be his speed that makes him so effective (4.75 40 time). Instead, multiple sources state that Dumervil’s wingspan (6′-6″) is his biggest advantage, a full 7 inches longer than he is tall. His short size and long arms allow for him to easily sneak through cracks on the offensive line that the rest of the linemen may not be able to squeeze through.
  • Calais Campbell, Monster – Campbell, who weighs 300 pounds, is almost a foot taller than the average male, standing at 6′-8″. He is also the tallest member of the 100 linemen I looked at. Despite being a beast of a man, Campbell still recorded 9 sacks last year, the 28th most this past season for all lineman. Impressive? I’d say so.
  • Strong Man Dontari Poe – Although being at the lower end of the group Poe is still a force to be reckoned with. Despite weighing almost 70 pounds more than the average for the group, Poe still recorded 4.5 sacks in 2013. An imposing figure, Poe was cited as “the most athletic over 300-pound man in this draft, or a lot of other drafts” by one scout prior to the 2012 draft. Not surprising, considering he’s ranked third in the benchpress since 2006 pressing the 225lb bar a whopping 44 times.

Regardless of how big or small these guys are in comparison to the group, I’d get out of the way if any one of them was coming my way.