by Matthias Neuner

February 3, 2017

News from Wearables for the Super Bowl

Super Bowl 2017, more commonly known as Super Bowl 51 (LI), is getting closer and will feature the AFC champion New England Patriots against the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons at Houston’s NRG Stadium. Like most other major sports, the NFL is currently enjoying a wearable technology explosion that’s changing the game. As the players walk out to contest the 51th Superbowl on Sunday, their training, preparation, tactics and plans will have been influenced by innovations from wearable technology like never before. From on-field tracking to improved safety and tactical HUDs, wearables are ushering a new era of football. So let us introduce you to some wearable devices which can influence the biggest sport event in the United States.

VICIS football helmet 

Developed in collaboration with the University of Washington, the futuristic Zero1 football helmet from Seattle-based startup Vicis is designed to combat concussion. One of three winners of the Head Health Challenge tech competition run by the NFL, Under Armour, and GE, the new design is intended to totally replace the league’s existing headgear. The now outdated protective wear was originally based on motorcycle helmets and designed to prevent skull fracture, but not concussion. While keeping the cracked cranium-busting build in place, the new helmet’s outer shell buckles on impact before returning to shape, reducing the acceleration of a hit on the player’s head. Some NFL-Players already used the Zero1 in this season.

StriVR 

The Dallas Cowboys were one of the first teams to get involved with VR behind the scenes, using Oculus headsets and StriVR Labs software for immersive training. Players watch pre-recorded scrimmages filmed by players sporting 360-degree cameras, helping them to prepare for similar scenarios in future games. Several teams in the league, including the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals, have now signed up to use StriVR as an integral part of training. There’s also been plenty of experimentation with VR to enhance the fan experience. In December 2015, 10,000 Google Cardboard headsets were handed out to fans at Gillette Stadium prior to the Patriots’ game against Philadelphia Eagles so that they could partake in a 360-degree version of the home team’s training sessions.

Zebra 

Zebra is the catchily dubbed ‘Official On-Field Player-Tracking Provider’ of the NFL and brings the playbook into the 21st Century by capturing high-speed player data. The stats can be used by coaches to adjust their game and to give fans an insight into what’s happening on the field. NFL players literally have a chip on their shoulders thanks to Zebra’s RFID sensors which are worn on their shoulder pads. These sensors send data which is picked up by ‘receivers’ that are placed around the stadium. Sensors can also be worn by officials or attached to objects like the first down marker. Sensors were used inside balls for the first time in last year’s Pro Bowl, though they’re currently unable to detect air pressure, something that may have helped during the famous ‘Deflategate’ controversy.

Athletic Brain

Axon is active in preparing athletes by solidifying the mental strength of athletes, the same way they want to improve their physical performance. Axon in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline and well-known investment firm Mark Cuban have defined all a new type of technology called “Athletic Brain”. The traits used to analyze this criterion include emotional regulation, high speed decision making, visualization, spatial reasoning, reaction and focus. By measuring the above mentioned statistics, Axon can design an assessment protocol that will be able to evaluate a player’s ability to make in-game decisions. If Athletic Brain materializes, the potential of the skill development, training and examining of NFL players will increase by tenfold. It has been revealed that more than one million training repetitions for NFL players have been logged in, till now.

Catapult trackers

Founded in Australia, Catapult Sports is one of the biggest suppliers of athletics tracking tech in the sports world. The company’s gadgetry is used by a quarter of all NFL franchises, along with 10 college football teams and is used primarily for preventing injuries. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the first team in the NFL to team up with Catapult. GPS trackers around the size of a small mobile phone are worn by the player, usually on the back using a chest harness, although some teams have sewn special pockets into the back of training tops. By monitoring key data, coaches can monitor players’ work rates and inform game rotations and practice schedules. The technology can also be used to safely rehabilitate injured players.

Let´s see if Tom Brady, the Quarterback of New England Patriots does it again this year. For sure, Amercian Football will more and more profit from the innovations of wearable technology the next year´s. So let´s see what will happen.