Made in Croatia

Croatian Kick Boxers Develop Sensor System for Athletes' Training

May the 18th, 2021 - In this day and age, top sport can't exist without the aid of some of the best technology, and several Croatian kick boxers are showcasing their skills outside of the ring by developing an innovative sensor system for the training of athletes.

As Filip Pavic/Novac writes, the above, that today's top sport can't exist without the help of tech is the thought of several leading young men, top athletes and entrepreneurs, from the Zagreb sports and technology startup Sportreact. The group of Croatian kick boxers devised a sensor system for the training and developing of the reflexes of athletes.

As the Croatian kick boxers all say, this is a system for athletes, by athletes. Anto Siric is the Croatian champion in kick boxing in the super heavyweight category and is also a student of mechatronics at the Zagreb Polytechnic, Andrej Kedves is the world runner-up in kick boxing and a student at the Medical Polytechnic, and Ivan Josipovic, a five-time winner of the Case Study Competition in Zagreb, is also a recreational and top creative in the team.

What this group of athletes has developed, in short, are sensors that come in a set of eight, palm-sized lamps, which the athlete must deactivate with their own movements, be that with their arm, leg or whatever the training at the time involves. The sensors are connected to a mobile app through which training is selected, and the idea is to improve the speed of the athlete’s reaction to visual stimuli and decision-making.

''Let's look at the example of handball training, Sportreact's sensors are mounted on goal frames, and when one of the sensors emits a signal, ie shows a colour or symbol, the goalkeeper must deactivate that sensor as soon as possible by passing or touching it. With this, he trains his reaction speed, his reflexes and his peripheral vision, and later in the application he can check out what his reaction speed was,'' explained Siric, who also designed the prototype of the Sportreact device.

In short, after a motor training or testing programme is selected in the mobile application, different colours and symbols appear on the sensor screen, they can be red, yellow, green or numbers from one to nine.

''The possibilities of testing motor and cognitive abilities through the application are actually unlimited. Complex tests can be agreed that, for example, you have to deactivate the blue colour on the sensor with your left hand, and the red one with your right foot,'' explained Andrej Kedves, who is in charge of creating training routines in the team.

For example, they have already used sensors for football training, so the player is in the circle of eight sensors with the ball, and as it changes colour, he must deactivate each one by holding the ball and changing the direction. They were praised by Dinamo player Dario Spikic, who was delighted with this piece of innovative Croatian technology because the application records all of the analytics of each individual athlete - their speed of reaction, precision, balance, coordination, and level of focus.

Given all this, it's hardly surprising that the story of Sportreact started from athletes themselves. As Andrej and Anto are both professional Croatian kick boxers, the first incentive for their training sensors, they admit, came from Anto's kick boxing coach who wanted one such device for his club, but given that they were all too expensive (especially those of FitLite, the leading brand in that segment), he suggested to the young engineer Anto for him to make it.

''Such devices already exist in the world and are used by more or less all big clubs, particularly football clubs. However, the problem is that they cost between 3000 and 5000 euros, and none of them combine routine training and motor skill testing and the ability to manage it all via a mobile application,'' stated Anto, adding that the price of their device, on the other hand, will be between 150 and 200 euros per device, as they now estimate, and they would sell them in a set of eight.

''The first prototype we made was actually made of a plastic container from Offertissima and was quite primitive, but we perfected it through training, and we improved sensor angles... The last model we plan to produce is made of ASA plastic used in the automotive industry and it's practically indivisible,'' added Anto.

This group of Croatian kick boxers won second place in the SmartUp startup contest and received six thousand kuna, which was a sign that maybe their innovation had some potential. After that, they won the award for the best pitch at the Algebra LAB competition, and last year they also managed to win 100,000 kuna at the Zagreb Startup Factory. In all this, they admit, the most useful advice came from the president of the board of directors of Algebra, Hrvoje Balen. He told them “stop competing and get to work”.

''After that, we opened a company, made use of all of the incentives for self-employment and, as Balen told us, started working. So far, we've invested all the money in product development and now we've finally come to a commercial prototype,'' added Anto, noting that a prize from the competition would help them scale production.

As for their potential customers, they target all Croatian and foreign clubs - football, basketball, handball, tennis, martial arts... For a start, they explained, they would like the opportunity to demonstrate their device first and foremost to local sports clubs in person.

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