Over 100 hackers gathered at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens this weekend to hack sports using the latest in wearable tech at Canada’s first wearable tech hackathon for sports, SportsHack Weekend. Created in partnership by We Are Wearables, IBM and Ryerson, the hackathon saw virtual reality, gesture, LED and brain-sensing devices be used to change the game of sports from all angles from bettering the performance of the player to increasing the fan experience.

The hack featured prizing worth over $15,000 in cash, hardware and support including $7,500 for the winning team and a potential spot in Ryerson’s Fashion Zone accelerator to further the idea. The winning team was selected by former dragon of CBC’s Dragon’s Den and managing partner at Round13, Bruce Croxon.

Teams were given access to wearable devices and mentors from InteraXon, makers of the brain-sensing headband Muse; Thalmic Labs, the creators of the gesture-control armband, Myo; wearable LED panels from MeU and tech from Kiwi Wearables and Freescale. "All teams used IBM Bluemix which allowed them to develop and run their apps quickly on the Cloud.

"Wearable tech is seeing early success in sports, health and fitness and so its great to see teams here in Toronto use the latest in wearable tech to come up with some new solutions that are making sports safer, bettering the performance of players and taking the games themselves to whole new levels. This weekend was a great example of how emerging technologies like virtual reality, gesture, LEDs and brain-sensing devices are changing the game of sports". Tom Emrich, Founder, We Are Wearables

19 teams pitched their hacks to a panel of judges which included Dr. Hossein Rahnama, CEO of Flybits, James Gibbons, CEO and Co-founder of Spabbit, Graham Churchill, IBM’s IoT Solutions Leader and John MacRichie, Senior Director, Business Development and Strategic Planning at Ryerson University. Hacks covered the gamut of sports from rowing and yoga to hockey, basketball and even MMA.

Three teams were selected to move on to the final round of judging by Bruce Croxon. After pitching to the ex-dragon, Bruce took the stage to announce the grand prize winner and the first and second runner-ups. Before making the announcement, Croxon gave some advice on starting a company within the wearable tech space. “Forget about the margin on the hardware,” he said. “The money is in the subscription and the ongoing revenue for charging customers and users.” For Croxon, the real business opportunity is in the data. “The lower you can make the barrier to start collecting that data the better. If you are well funded, for example, I would be giving away this hardware for free. It’s not expensive. Get it out there and start to charge for the service. Don’t be worried about making a one time margin on the hardware because the money is in the data,” he told the crowd.

Croxon selected Team Raisins as the grand prize winner. The team of five created a Player Tracking System powered by Kiwi Wearables motion recognition platform which would be used to create heat maps for coaches to help with tactics and in-game team management.

The team used a Moto 360 smartwatch and 3 Onyx Beacons to demo their technology on stage. In placing beacons around the area of any sports gameplay, the position of a player wearing a smart device such as a Moto 360 will be sent to these beacons which will store them in the database. This stored data is then used to create a heat map that can be used by the coach to make corrections and improvements in game tactics. The team was quick to point out that although heat mapping is something sports franchises are employing with the use of high-end technology including video gear, their solution is cheap and a more precise solution for tracking player positioning in the game.

The runner up was Team KANU who used a sensor-equipped Exoglove, developed by BreqLabs, to track the performance of rowers in action looking at datasets collected by the glove including hand position and grip. The second runner up was team CaliberOne, a group of high school students who created MYOwnTrainer which used the Myo gesture-control armband from Thalmic Labs to track exercise progress and compare this to others in your social circle in a leaderboard style.

All of the SportsHack projects, including the top 3 winners, can be viewed on Challenge Post.

Photo Credit: W Pemulis | willandalexphoto.com