Carv, the world’s first digital ski coach that uses a smart boot insert to capture motion and pressure, is an example of a new generation of consumer electronics that uses sensor fusion. Sensor fusion takes data from a number of sources, such as direction (magnetometer), speed (accelerometer), weight distribution (pressure sensors) and rotation (gyroscope), and combines the strengths of each to provide meaningful information for decision support.
Achieving this fusion in real-time while a person is moving at speed is technically challenging and a specialist area of mechatronics, this is where Robotae’s experience gave the MotionMetrics team timely support. The idea for a ski coach came to co-founder Jamie Grant during his PhD at Imperial College London. As a keen skier he developed an app which used the motion sensor on the phone to track skiing performance. He trialled the app with students on a university ski trip and the stats and data proved popular with skiers. “The limitation of using a phone to capture data is that it is in the wrong position on the body,” he explains. “It can’t understand your technique. We realised from talking to professional coaches we needed to capture the pressure on the turn. To achieve this we put a smart pressure sensor inside the boot between the soft lining and the boot.”
Mechatronics is a multi-disciplinary subject requiring deep knowledge of many fields of engineering. For Jamie and his team, managing the development process was further complicated as they were using hardware partners in Shenzhen and splitting their development time between London and China while testing their designs with professional skiers on the slopes. Jamie had been recommended to contact Kevin Rathbone of Robotae.
Kevin is a seasoned technology consultant, knowledgeable about developing sensor fusion algorithms and of managing the product development process. He proved a safe pair of hands for the early stage company. Jamie says: “Robotae is very experienced in high level advanced electronics and this was invaluable to us. Kevin reviewed our plans and made recommendations that improved performance and reduced cost. The electronics are a very important and we needed to get to market fast on a limited budget; Robotae helped to de-risk the development.”
Kevin Rathbone comments: “Carv is a sophisticated product that shows what is becoming possible with wearable technology underpinned by advanced mechatronics. A particular strength of MotionMetrics’ approach is that they have worked closely with skiers and top level coaches to really understand how the body moves, what information is needed and how to interpret it.
This type of input is essential for a successful product development.” Motion Metrics has just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign which exceeded its target and Carv has gone into production.
The device connects wirelessly to a smartphone, providing information and analysis ranging from simple, actionable feedback for casual skiers to detailed metrics and analysis for advanced and professional users. Jamie has worked with the head coach of the US national ski team and others at the top of the sport in downhill and ski cross to ensure that the type and quality of information is appropriate and the algorithm is able to understand what is happening in order to deliver the coaching advice. The feedback about Carv from amateurs and professionals alike has been excellent. A pair of Carv sensors and trackers cost $250 with additional professional-class features available for $100.