Motus, Zepp Unveil New Wearable Baseball Tech at CES 2016

Motus Global and Zepp announced new additions to their existing lineup of baseball-specific wearable devices at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Motus Global’s system, called motusBASEBALL, is driven by a single IMU sensor. The new system can be used in a compression sleeve to track pitching, comparable to the mThrow, their existing offering. But the motusBASEBALL system can also be clipped on to a batting glove, providing feedback on a player’s swing.

“Our unique approach to the space, rooted in years of biomechanics services for MLB teams, along with the most powerful sports sensor on the market, gives our users the best chance at improving their mechanics and monitoring workloads on their joints,” said vice president for application development Ryan Holstad.

Preliminary information about the system is available on Motus Global’s website. The pitching metrics offered are very similar to the mThrow: both include throw limits based on workload, elbow and shoulder kinematics based on the single IMU worn over the ulnar collateral ligament, and a “bullpen mode” to help pitchers train.

The webpage also suggests that six metrics will be tracked for hitters: bat speed, hand speed, swing time, swing length (in inches), attack angle, and vertical angle. Metrics will be calculated separately for each region of the strike zone, to help hitters identify “hot” and “cold” regions. (Pitch locations will presumably be entered manually.)

To this point, not much has been revealed about the sensor driving the new system, other than that it has been “upgraded” over the current mThrow sensor. We can say for sure that the new sensor is less rounded than the current one. There is also a micro USB port for charging the sensor, a change from the induction charging previously used. More details will be revealed in the weeks leading up to the device launch (currently scheduled for February).

The company emphasized that motusBASEBALL was a consumer system, contrasting it with the motusPRO system unveiled during last month’s Winter Meetings. A full-body, five-sensor system, the motusPRO also transmits data via Bluetooth to a mobile phone or tablet for analysis. The system describes hitting and pitching motions through a wide range of angles, forces, rotations, and timing parameters. The motusPRO is currently available only to professional organizations, but Motus Global plans to roll the device out to select training facilities in the future.

Also this week, Zepp announced the next evolution of their bat sensor: an as yet unnamed offering embedded directly into the handle of the bat. As seen in the image above, the sensor will lock into a retention sleeve, which in turn will be fitted into the hollowed-out knob of a bat. Current offerings, which fit into flexible sleeves that slide over the knob, can move around or be knocked off by especially violent swings. Moving the sensor inside the bat should mitigate this problem.

The new design is still in the prototype phase, and no price point or release date have yet been announced. But Zepp claims to be in talks with a number of bat manufacturers to make a commercial version. In addition, Zepp announced a partnernship with New Balance, who unveiled a new digital sport division at CES.

Meanwhile, Zepp also has representatives at the annual convention of the American Baseball Coaches Association in Nashville. The goal there is to advance Zepp’s new design as an “open-source” industry standard for wearable sensors. To that end, the company will be hosting a roundtable discussion on this topic Friday.

Currently, devices like Motus Global’s and Zepp’s are not approved by MLB for in-game use. But MLB has said they are updating their wearables policy before the 2016 season. Until then, these devices can be used in practices and specific events: Zepp’s existing sensor has been used during game action at Perfect Game showcases, and an early version of the mThrow was used during 2014 fall instructs.

Bryan Cole is a contributor to TechGraphs and a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @Doctor_Bryan.

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