From electronic tattoos for fitness to 3D printed sneakers and more, these five sports startups at SXSW are looking to change how you workout and watch sports.
AUSTIN – In the cavernous exhibit hall at the Austin Convention Center, hundreds of creative companies and organizations came to show off their wares to the movers and shakers attending South by Southwest. Nestled in among them were a handful of sports-related ventures. Here SPORTS ILLUSTRATED presents a selection of five of those:
Ever felt your game of foosball wasn’t quite social enough? This French startup comes to the rescue with a high-tech table made by Bonzini that incorporates sensors electronically recording ball speed, goals, and even helping with refereeing decisions. The table can be linked up to the company’s social network, the Foosball Society, allowing players to share and compare their results and statistics. In the digital age, babyfoot just grew up.
If the shoe doesn’t fit, Feetz might have the answer. The company 3D prints shoes to order, allowing users to customize the color and arch support of sneakers or flats. Made in San Diego, the whole process only takes a couple of hours, and the shoes are made of materials that can be recycled. Right now, Feetz’s shoes are designed more for comfort than athletic performance, but perhaps this will help usher in an age where instead of buying Steph Curry’s shoes, or Lebron James’s, you’ll buy your own.
This Canadian firm makes smart bracelets that aim to change the way fans access, pay for, and experience music concerts and sports events. At Super Bowl 50, attendees to several big parties in San Francisco used 35,000 of these bracelets—a RFID chip encased in a small plastic card and a fabric band—to get in. The wristbands have also been used by the Maple Leafs and at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Montreal, where fans could use them to complete challenges and earn prizes.
The next time you go work out, your clothes might be able to give you a power boost, at least if German startup Antelope has its way. The company is making compression gear with integrated electrodes designed to activate muscles by triggering them with an electrical pulse. Called electromyostimulation, this technique has been demonstrated to create the same neural and muscular changes that would come from traditional strength training. So don’t be too surprised if your gym buddies soon have wires running from their calf sleeves.
This startup out of the University of Texas is taking a new spin on tattoos. Instead of getting inked up, players might soon be covered in transparent patches with electronic circuits tracing along their skin. Those removable tattoos could measure heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, skin hydration and other metrics. The development kit the company is opening up this summer still has a large tag attached that would make it hard to use in competition, but is working on further miniaturization.