From connected tennis rackets, baseball bats and golf clubs, wearables for individual sports are catching on. With seemingly countless activity trackers fighting for your wrist space, wearables designed for specific activities make a welcome change.
PIQ, the leading French start-up in sports robotics, has this year expanded its artificial intelligence wearable line to boxing. At CES 2017, the company announced a partnership with Everlast to bring its device to market. Manhattan based Everlast has been a well known brand in boxing since 1910, and is the world’s leading manufacturer, marketer and licencor of boxing, MMA and fitness equipment.
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For many fans of “the noble art”, it is difficult to gauge the strength of their punches and the effectiveness of their form, at least without the right equipment. Wrap this boxing sensor around your wrist and you’ll get detailed and accurate information on the power and speed of your punches.
I ran Everlast and PIQ Boxing through it’s paces during the past week. At this stage I should probably point out that I have no ambitions to become a heavy weight boxing champion, my goal was simply to test how the device measured up.
Features and software
In the box you get PIQ Robot Blue which gathers data while you box, a proprietary charger, a hand wrap with a frame to secure the main unit, identification labels and a couple of instruction booklets. The driving force of the system is PIQ Robot Blue, a nano-computer which houses a set of built-in sensors that track your motions.
This is actually a less expensive version of the multi-sport device the company uses for tennis, golf, kiteboarding and skiing. Measuring 44mm x 3.8.mm x 5.4mm and weighing only 9.8 grams, PIQ Robot Blue is shock resistant, waterproof, lightweight and ultra thin.
Everlast and PIQ is only supposed to be used for shadow boxing, heavy bag work, mitt work and light sparring. It is not really meant to be worn in the ring during an actual bout.
To get the most out of this wearable, it is important to look over the documentation on how to wrap these sensors around your wrists. You are meant to slot the main unit into the frame on the wrap making sure it is facing the correct direction. PIQ Robot Blue must be centered, on the inside of your wrist and pointing towards the palm of your hand.
The strap the sensor lives in is short, so it can’t serve as a primary hand wrap. Instead it’s meant to go over your hand wraps or on top of the Velcro loop on your boxing gloves. This way, it doesn’t impact performance negatively. You can also use the device without the glove just with the strap that comes with it, without the glove by using the frame and your own strap, or without a glove using your own strap without the frame.
The strap and sensor are ambidextrous, so can be used on either hand. If you purchased one PIQ Robot, you will be able to track only one hand at a time. The settings in the accompanying app allow you to change from Left to Right, and also allow you to switch between an Orthodox or Southpaw boxing stance.
If you are lucky enough to have a second unit, you can wrap it around your other wrist for even more detailed statistics. I was able to use my PIQ tennis multi-sport tracker as a second unit, by pairing it with the app and tagging it for use with my non-dominant wrist.
Battery life is a decent 8 hours. Charging is done by slotting the main unit into the proprietary charger. The device sports a multicolor LED light which indicates when the battery is running low. The LED also has other functions such as indicating when the device is switched on and when its charging.
PIQ Robot Blue technology was developed after studying motions of thousands of boxers. The accelerometer, gyroscope, and an altimeter inside the device collect more than 190,000 points of data per minute to dish out stats on speed, G-force at impact, and retraction time for all your punches.
To process this raw data, PIQ taps into GAIA, an artificial intelligence system that can learn to identify and quantify sports performance. GAIA is the result of 2 years of research and €13 million in investments. Developed by PIQ’s 50 engineers, it is capable of breaking down and analyzing sports movements via specific motion-capture algorithms. The company says, GAIA is the first technology which truly understands sports movements.
Because everyone who uses the wearable is connected, GAIA has access to data from amateurs and professional fighters alike. This enables it not only to learn how to identify various punches, but also to tell the difference between a knockout punch and a flimsy swing of someone just starting out. With access to so many boxers and swing metrics, the motion-capture algorithm is constantly updated the capture optimal form.
The first time you use the device you will need to go through a brief set-up process. Launch the Everlast and PIQ smartphone app, create a profile, answer a few questions and confirm the SMS verification code. You will also need to allow time for a firmware update procedure. All in all, I found it a relatively seamless process which took about 10 minutes, including the firmware update.
If you just purchased one PIQ Robot, once your device is paired to your app, it will record a session even if not in range of your smartphone. If you purchased two PIQ Robots, you will need to pair both of them before starting your session.
Once the sensor(s) are paired to the app you can begin your session. As you wear it, the device measures various types of data so that you can review and verify how well you are doing. To stop a session from recording, turn off your sensor, or just start the synchronization on your smartphone.
You will find that the companion app offers a ton of performance metrics. If you are like me and like to sift through detailed stats, you will love the app.
Information provided includes the speed of your punches, the force of your punch at impact and the retraction time of your hand (the quicker you retract your hand the better in order to have a better snap and recover your guard as fast as you can). You are also assigned a unique value called PIQSCORE which is based on all three of these metrics. The PIQSCORE displayed in the dashboard is the average value of your last six recorded sessions, so in a sense a single metric that quantifies your overall progress.
Other stats are almost too numerous to list fully. They include the total number of punches, calories, boxing time, punches broken down by type, records, progression displayed via charts and much much more.
Along with tracking results, the app also provides actionable information on how to improve in areas where you may be lacking and identifies, what the company calls, your “Winning Factors”. This is a concept developed by PIQ, together with its engineers and the thousand of test-athletes working with their partner brands.
PIQ Robot sifts through the statistics listed above, compares to your previous performances, and highlights your best two progressions as well as an area to monitor. For example, my last session told me “You put high intensity in your boxing session” and that “The speed of your 2-punch combos can easily surprise your opponent”. The “Learn More” screen allows you to understand in detail your Winning Factors.
The app also has its fair share of social features. PIQ has created an online community for boxers where you can compete with others on, for example, who has the hardest punch or who had the longest workout. The network also allows you to measure how you stack up against pro boxers. Each day you can access the leaderboard and see how you measure up within the community.
Everlast & PIQ is great for anyone who does boxing on a regular basis. Regardless of whether you are just shadow boxing for exercise or someone with years of experience in the sport, it represents a great addition to your routine.
The data PIQ Robot Blue collects is incredibly comprehensive, but what the system does with this information is even more impressive. Its like having your own coach monitoring your every swing and guiding you along the way. With information on how to pack a stronger punch or move your arm a certain way, you’ll be able to boost your boxing technique in no time.
While having one sensor monitoring one arm at a time is useful for exercise or someone just starting out, if you are really serious about boxing, I would suggest purchasing two. Unfortunately this increases the cost, but you could opt for a multi-sport sensor that will allow you to track other sports such as tennis and skiing.
Everlast & PIQ Boxing Wearable
The days when fitness trackers and sports gadgets simply record you movements and dish out stats are slowly becoming a thing of the past. PIQ is a pioneer in this field and their boxing wearable is a solid effort. It works as designed, its not cumbersome to wear, and it goes beyond just displaying data by providing much more meaningful analysis.
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