EliteForm picks up powerful partners in push to redefine weight training
The team from Elite Form has joined forces with the Nebraska football team during the development of its new echnology for stregnth and conditioning.
Put techies and college football players on a team together and what do you get? When it's two powerhouses like Nebraska Global and the Nebraska Cornhuskers — based just blocks from each other in Lincoln — you might be surprised by the possibilities.
Despite Nebraska Global's pedigree as a software firm, the inspiration for the EliteForm system was actually hardware. As Zimmer explains, the cost of 3-D depth camera technology dropped dramatically in the past few years, from more than $10,000 to a couple-hundred dollars. "This is a paradigm shift," Zimmer said, "(a) game changer."
So Nebraska Global programmers Ben Rush, Josh Brown-Kramer and Nate Lowry set out in early 2011 to develop something with the cameras, using cutting-edge concepts like computer vision and machine learning. By last summer, they had picked their direction and formed their collaboration with the university's athletic department.
As we reported in January, when Nebraska Global announced its investment in Elite Form, the system consists of a 3-D depth camera and touchscreen mounted on a weight rack. The touchscreen display (right) tells an athlete what lifts and how many reps their coach has prescribed for them. Afterward, both the athlete and their coach can review the video of their lifts, as well as the velocity, the power they generate (calculated with patent-pending algorithms) and other stats.
"We've been able to make this technology seem like a seamless part of the workout," Zimmer said. Ultimately, the system aims to boost athletic performance by encouraging accountability, accuracy and motivation.
Since debuting at the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Coaches Conference in January 2012, EliteForm systems have made their way to the football teams at Texas A&M and, obviously, Nebraska.
"There's definitely an arms race when it comes to, particularly, college football," said Skip Cronin, EliteForm's sales manager and a former college athlete himself. Coaches want to be early adopters so that they can use the new tools to recruit players, he said, and secure an edge three or four years out. (For example, see Nebraska's and Texas A&M's efforts to show off EliteForm.)
EliteForm's market extends beyond college football, too. A few units have been placed at Florida State and Tennessee, and the Kansas basketball team's system shipped out in August. A few professional teams have also expressed interest. And, last week, EliteForm began marketing the StrengthPlanner strength card generation system separately, at a price of $15 per athlete per year. This will extend Elite Form's reach to high school teams, Cronin said, and to teams that don't use a rack-based weight system.
(Left: A sample of a coach's view of athletes' workouts using the EliteForm system.)
In short, Cronin said, "If someone strength trains, there's a pretty good use for our system."
Like at any startup, life at EliteForm hasn't all been touchdown dances and Gatorade showers. The company's challenges have included learning the dynamics and timing of different sports markets, recruiting the right early adopters to provide useful feedback and, of course, tackling the hardware issue.
"We're a bunch of software guys, so we had to master this hardware aspect, too," Zimmer said, "and get it to fit into this rapid context where things are happening."
He and Cronin credit team member Hari Wiguna with leading the effort to find component suppliers and local manufacturers for mounting pieces, and setting up an assembly line at one end of Nebraska Global's office space.
"Most of the time," Cronin said, "it looks like MythBusters up here."
For another take on EliteForm, see the video below from the Nebraska Performance Lab. The first part of the video features discussion of Nebraska weight training, including insight from Nebraska Global's Steve Kiene.