Validation in Vegas: Presenting our Prototype to the NBA Summer League

Aspire Ventures is taking on the world of professional sports with our AI-powered healthcare technology platform Connexion. With our partner Fusionetics, we introduced our platform to athletes at the NBA Summer League in Vegas, and previously to attendees of the NBA Combine in Chicago. Now, the Connexion is stirring up lots of excitement in conversations about what this means for professional teams everywhere.

Connexion uses a multitude of powerful sensors that can be harnessed for a host of new health applications–a technology that some are calling the “iPhone of Health Care”. However, the first application, powered by Fusionetics’ movement efficiency technology, primarily attracts members of the sports industry.

So far, we’ve gained interest from trainers, athletics directors, doctors, and high-profile athletes from NBA teams all over the country, and garnered international interest from athletic executives abroad.

Overall, the feedback we received from our Summer League appearance was immensely positive. A handful of teams and coaches spent hours with our team and engaging with the Connexion, asking questions about how the technology works, and how they could incorporate it into their own training programs.

We’ve learned a great deal in the short time since our debut at the NBA Combine in May, like how important it is to have a rapid prototype to gain valuable feedback from customers. By showing an early prototype in Chicago, we were able to incorporate invaluable feedback in our second iteration in time for our showing in Las Vegas. We also learned that there is a plenty of interest in our technology.

We continued to improve the clinical accuracy of the platform for Vegas, further personalizing the experience for each user. Now equipped with faster, more accurate technology, potential customers are already seeing value in a product that gives actionable data at the convenience of the user.

Trainers, doctors, and team executives understand the potential for such a technology. With further development we will be able to read hydration levels, recognize fingerprints, and test jumping abilities using force plate sensors. And with facial recognition and other sensor memory functions, regular users can continuously monitor their health and check their progress throughout routine training.

Ultimately, we are working to create functionality in Connexion that benefits everyone, not just professional athletes. The world of sports science is just the tip of the iceberg, as we envision wide-reaching healthcare applications for our advanced sensor fusion technology.

Large companies could use the Connexion to evaluate workers’ comp, dermatologists could use the multitude of sensors to detect cancerous skin lesions, and doctors could have a noninvasive way of taking vital signs.

The traction we’ve established in the sports world is just the beginning. A platform with so many potential benefits doesn’t just have potential to transform performance health, it could dramatically change the way we manage our health in our day-to-day lives.

AI & Fitness: How AI Can Help World-Class Athletes and Average Jo(e)s

When we think of professional sports, we think of strong athletes with strict diets and hardcore training routines who just so happen to be extremely good at what they do. Compared to average people, athletes typically have lower heart rates, longer life expectancies, and overall higher levels of positivity through the help of their everyday regimens. Although we aren’t all Olympic medalists or multi-million-dollar football stars, it doesn’t mean that everyday people can’t train like the pros. With the help of AI, athletic performance can be tailored to any individual, promoting both training efficiency and preventive care.

There are many ways AI can impact athletics and other forms of exercise – here are a few for you to consider:

Improving Cognitive Strength

The idea of training your brain is growing in popularity for athletes and those engaged in physical exercise. With regular cognitive training, levels of attention, memory, visual processing, sensory integration, and thinking skills can be significantly improved. Neurotracker, a company specializing in cognitive training across athletic, educational, medical, and scientific use, provides a mind exercise program that tests athletes’ ability to recognize and identify objects and improve their overall situational awareness. By training the brain, athletes can become more focused and attentive to stimuli while possessing and processing multiple pieces of information to make a more informed decision.

Implementing AI into pre-existing brain training programs could allow athletes and average Jo(e)s to tailor their own cognitive exercises. AI could be used to monitor patterns in the brain’s recognition ability and could tailor each module to enhance strengths and improve weaker areas. The average Jo(e) can also benefit from cognitive training by increasing awareness and memory extension to make daily routine tasks – like driving and holding a conversation – much easier.

Heightening Endurance

To be a successful athlete, high levels of endurance are critical. To perform at their utmost potential, athletes’ bodies need to be able to give it their all. A wearable device called Humon is helping professional athletes build and monitor their personalized endurance training programs. Typically marketed towards marathon runners, Humon is a lactic acid threshold monitor that is strapped to the leg or other working muscle. It measures oxygenated blood by shining light into the skin and recording changes to the color of the blood. By tracking these changes, athletes can measure their levels of endurance as they improve.

By using AI to track these changes, athletes can form a personalized performance plan that indicates how much or how little to push themselves, taking signals from the body to tell how much exertion is right for them. Just like professional athletes, the everyday person would be able to find the right exertion balance for training, performing, and recovering phases.

Increasing Hydration Levels

We’ve all heard the advice to drink eight glasses of water a day to ensure our bodies stay hydrated. However, intense exercise can rid our bodies of the fluid it needs through perspiration. To help athletes manage their hydration levels, Gatorade created the Gx Platform to deliver personalized hydration for athletes that fits their exercise routines. By measuring an athlete’s sweat content, including sodium levels and electrolyte concentration, the program delivers a personalized drink formula to replenish the lost nutrients. Gatorade is also developing “smart caps” on water bottles to keep track of fluid intake, promoting healthier ways to manage hydration during exercise.

With the help of AI, athletes and everyday people can track patterns in their fluid concentration levels. Artificial intelligence can take personalized hydration one step further by forecasting the body’s levels in the future to create more dynamic recommendations for each individual.

Producing a Healthier Diet Regimen

In order for our bodies to perform, we need energy. This energy comes in multiple forms, most commonly through the foods that we eat. A new app called KingFit is in the works to track glucose levels and provide the user with recommended eating plans based on the monitored results. With various alerts and reminders, athletes can work to keep a routine healthy diet.

AI can be used to tailor this experience to each individual. By applying artificial intelligence to the app, athletes can learn how to feed their bodies efficiently through each phase of activity – training, performing, and recovering. Personalizing dietary intake at each phase promotes maximum performance and optimal health.

Analyzing Movement

Flexibility and balance are two key points in movement efficiency. In order to have high movement efficiency, the body must be able to exert the least possible amount of energy while simultaneously yielding maximum athletic performance. Atlas wearable devices assist athletes in monitoring their movement by recreating their body in 3D space, pinpointing the differences of each exercise and their effect on the body as they perform.

Using AI provides increased scalability and accuracy, exceeding the capability of humans. With an automated training assessment, this insight can be accessed by everyone, not just those who can afford expensive trainers. When it comes to factors such as reaction time, AI can measure more precisely than humans, down to less than a millisecond.

The Connection

Here at Aspire, the connection is the Connexion, an AI-powered technology platform equipped with a multitude of powerful sensors that can be harnessed for a host of new health applications. The first app of Connexion is a movement efficiency screening using our partner Fusionetics’ technology. By combining powerful sensors and AI to create an automatic health assessment, the user can pinpoint which parts of the body are working efficiently and which parts need more work.

As we dive into the age of intelligent technology, we will continue to see changes in our daily routines. These changes are influencing our health – from cognitive memory to mobility and stability.  Artificial intelligence is fueling great innovation in training and exercise. And whether we are athletic pros or average Jo(e)s, it is becoming clear that AI can help us maximize our performance.

How Rapid Prototyping Can Transform Ideas Into Impact

It is both exciting and rewarding to see our hard work develop into something measurable. But at the same time, it may be a bit audacious to implement our ideas into tangible assets, knowing that when we do we will be subjected to criticism. Whether we are painting a picture, writing a story, or designing the newest mobile app, our work can be interpreted as a reflection of who we are. The sense of vulnerability that comes with revealing our work can be very personal – and very real. It’s only natural to prefer to keep our work under the veil until we feel it’s the best possible representation of our efforts.

But when it comes to making a successful product for customers, we need the help of the user to test our assumptions and, in the end, determine how that product should evolve. After all, prototyping is about embracing the “wrong” as a stepping stone to the “right”. Accepting potential failure is critical in the development of market-ready products because trial and error provides a clear path to a finalized product. Creating a rapid prototype is not easy, but it is a critical step in developing a product that people want to use.

We are no strangers to the difficulties that come with sharing prototypes with consumers. We recently debuted a first prototype for a new product called Connexion after only five weeks of development. That was no small feat, considering the prototype was a full-sized health kiosk that used multiple sensors and artificial intelligence to automatically perform health assessments on athletes. In partnership with Fusionetics, we showed our first iteration of Connexion in May to professional athletes, doctors, and sports trainers during the NBA Combine in Chicago, even though the product was far from complete. Letting potential customers try out our work-in-progress for themselves came with some stress to say the least, but it proved to be a necessary step to communicating our vision to the market, gaining user feedback to revise our hypotheses, and further improve the user experience.

Like any company, at Aspire we have plenty of perfectionists who are inclined to keeping their work under wraps until it fully meets their standard of quality. But if everyone operates with this mindset, it produces more risk for the company. To overcome this perfectionism, we use different strategies — such as design sprints and a collaborative culture. These strategies help each person to embrace failure and influence idea sharing. Without releasing prototypes during development stages, you have no way of knowing if your market hypotheses are correct, and you could end up spending a lot of time and resources perfecting a product based on the wrong assumptions. Even if your assumptions are correct, too much unnecessary fine-tuning will delay your launch and let your rivals beat you to the market.

In an article published by TechRepublic, author Shelley Doll explains how early prototyping can save money by making it easier to make adjustments during development. “While some might argue that prototyping creates rework, its purpose is to actually avoid the rework that comes from unknowns or incomplete design,” she says. If you feel the prototype is taking up too much time to become a finished product, think of all of the time you could potentially be wasting if your assumptions are inaccurate. Essentially, all of your time would be wasted on a product the user doesn’t want to use, or no longer wants to use.

Presenting our prototype at the NBA Combine gave us a lot of insight on how we could improve the development process and our product the second time around. We learned which parts of the initial UX worked well and which needed improvement. We found that we needed to use lighter materials to make it easier to transport and we need a ceiling redesign to better accommodate exercises that require athletes to raise their hands above their heads.

In addition to gaining critical feedback, early prototypes can really help communicate the company’s vision through a tangible product, giving potential customers or investors something to touch and feel. Unlike a verbal or written concept, a real product validates the idea and proves the idea can, in fact, be brought to life.

Our initial pass at the early prototype has generated real-life excitement in the sports industry. Debuting it at such an early stage already has users excited about what’s to come in the future of exercise training. Through the private demos performed by select NBA teams and trainers, we can tell the industry has been seeking this type of technology.

Quick prototype turnaround also helps you solidify your role as a market leader. In the case of Aspire, the Connexion kiosk is the first healthcare technology to implement advanced sensor fusion using A2I, Aspire’s proprietary AI platform. From a business standpoint, rapid prototypes gain first-mover advantage; they start conversations about your product, creating early interactions with your audience before the fully fledged product is out on the market.

The magic of having a prototype is simply that: it is the prototype! It doesn’t have to be perfect, just sufficient enough to establish the goal. Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling once said “the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” And just like ideas, to get to a successful end-product, you will need to develop multiple prototypes to achieve the ultimate goal. Exposing a prototype, even in a short amount of time, can surely transform those ideas into products that provide users with valuable tools they’ll be eager to use.

Building The Bigger Picture: How We Can Use Sensor Fusion to Change Healthcare

Everywhere we look, sensors surround us, collecting important data and interfacing our digital world with our everyday lives. There is a whole ecosystem of sensor technology already in place, but are we using that technology to its fullest potential?

In 2016, the sensor market was valued at $123.5 billion and is expected to increase to nearly $240.3 billion by 2022. With constant advancements in technology and, consequently, the number of sensors, the data they are producing is becoming increasingly more valuable in understanding how our world works.

Sensors are usually designed for a single purpose: to gather and stream one type of data related to a single function. But overlapping these data streams could lead to an entirely new level of complex understanding. In the same way that our brains fuse all of our senses to create a more complete perceptual realization of the world around us, combining multiple sensor technologies could enable much deeper, more useful insight.

To achieve that level of insight, we need tools to piece together all of the data – we need artificial intelligence. With the use of AI, we can weave together data streams from multiple inputs to create a comprehensive view. This combination of sensor data is called sensor fusion.

Sensor fusion is already powering some of our most revolutionizing technologies. Smartphones combine gyroscopes, accelerometers, and compasses for all kinds of useful applications; and self-driving cars will rely on sensor fusion to navigate busy, unpredictable streets.

But what if we could use sensor fusion to accomplish something bigger? What if we could use it to change healthcare and live healthier lives?

In the healthcare industry, sensors play an important role in monitoring health data in real time. And to some extent, we’re already seeing some forms of simple sensor fusion. But integrating an advanced form of sensor fusion that combines a larger network of sensors could completely transform healthcare as we know it.

That’s the vision we’re working on here at Aspire Ventures. We’re developing a healthcare platform, Connexion, that fuses a large array of auditory, optical, and pressure sensors in an AI-powered healthcare kiosk that rapidly produces deep insights into the body. Users will be able to use a number of health applications within the kiosk—from automated musculoskeletal assessments, to skin cancer screenings—independently between their regular doctor visits.

A combination of multiple high-speed cameras and a Kinect sensor work together to analyze posture, lateral balance, and body movement for subtle musculoskeletal irregularities; the cameras also run through advanced algorithms to enable facial recognition, mood analysis, and even remote heart rate detection; and a pressure sensitive mat measures body weight, the arch of your feet, and lateral balance.

That’s what we’ve developed so far, but there are vast possibilities for powerful new healthcare applications. By leveraging our adaptive artificial intelligence platform, A2I, Connexion cameras could remotely measure respiration rate and pulse oxygenation; a microphone could take the place of a stethoscope, using data from breathing patterns to infer internal issues such as valve dysfunction; and users could sync their wearable data with the Connexion for a deeper health analysis that shows the body’s changes over time.

We recently debuted our first Connexion prototype to professional trainers and doctors during the NBA Combine in Chicago in partnership with Fusionetics, a leading performance health technology company that works with professional sports teams across the country. In Chicago we demonstrated the first functional app for Connexion: an automated movement efficiency assessment that analyzes the user’s movements during a set of exercises and recommends personalized training programs for remediation, injury prevention, and improved body control.

“The Kinect data, video, and pressure mat data are ‘fused’ in a compensation detection algorithm to determine issues that could lead to poor performance or injury, like arm drop, excessive back arch, or heel lift,” says Peter Funke, Scientist at Aspire Ventures. That’s one piece of the performance health puzzle. We’re also working with Fusionetics on a number of other applications that will let athletes test strength, flexibility, and balance.

The Chicago unveiling has given us a promising outlook for the future of the Connexion and its impact on sports science, but it will have much broader applications in healthcare. By fusing all the sensory technology available to us, we can change the way we assess and manage our health—letting patients do everything from automated skin cancer detection to guided physical therapy sessions. It will also change the way we interact with healthcare systems. The Connexion experience gives patients a convenient point of access to care, increasing their engagement and allowing patients to take more control of their health and wellness. It also gives doctors far deeper insight into their patients that will aid diagnosis and treatment.  

Using sensor technology to track our health is nothing new. But we can get so much more value from the technology that we already have. With AI-powered sensor fusion, we can use existing technology to change the way we see and understand our bodies to live healthier, happier lives.