Rapsodo Partners With Pitching Robot Startup Trajekt Sports

By Joe Lemire

Ball-tracking technology company Rapsodo has partnered with startup Trajekt Sports, whose baseball pitching robots have recently been used by a few MLB clubs. 

Rapsodo, which uses a blend of radar and optical technologies, has become a ubiquitous sight around baseball as all 30 MLB clubs—and many college programsuse its devices, including the new Pro 3.0 that combines pitching and hitting tracking.  

Trajekt’s robot, the Trajekt Arc, uses precise motor control, image processing and machine learning to replicate pitchers’ arsenals, mimicking each offering’s speed, spin, movement and location. This is especially helpful for hitters preparing to face that night’s starting pitcher and likely relievers to get a visual on what they might face while also being able to take swings. The Cubs and Mets are among the earliest reported users. 

As part of this partnership, Rapsodo and Trajekt created a real-time API to share pitch data. This enables the Trajekt Arc to learn new pitches and add more pitchers to its library.  

INFLCR, ESPN Team Up To Help College Athletes Create Branded Content

By Andrew Cohen

Student athlete NIL network INFLCR is partnering with ESPN to give its community of 65,000 college athletes opportunities to create branded content for espnW and Andscape. The two ESPN properties will have pages within INFCLR’s app for student athletes to be updated on promotional opportunities available to them.  

INFCLR’s software is used by student athletes from more than 4,000 NCAA teams to connect them with brands and monetize their name, image and likeness. ESPN markets its opportunity to INFCLR members as a means for them to build relationships and increase their own brand exposure. The sports media network joins social media giants such as Meta and TikTok as brands to have partnered with INFCLR to support NIL initiatives for student athletes.  

Sensor-Based Inventory Management System BarTrack To Monitor Beer Flow at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

By Andrew Cohen

MercedesBenz Stadium, home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS club Atlanta United, is using a sensor-based inventory management system from BarTrack to monitor the venue’s flow of beer during games and concerts. The stadium’s entire draft beer system, which spans 1,200 taps, has been equipped with BarTrack’s sensors to let management track keg levels and other beverage dispensing data in real time.  

Mercedes-Benz Stadium has reported a 10% increase in keg yield and an additional 10 pints poured per keg during events since it first installed BarTrack. Stadium operators can view BarTrack’s software platform to track keg levels and ensure they get re-stocked before going empty to reduce tap downtime and the time fans spend waiting for beer. BarTrack’s sensors also track a drink dispenser’s temperature, pressure, cleaning schedule, and the type of beer, with all the feedback viewable via its app. 

Virginia-based BarTrack was founded in 2018 and seeks to work with bars, breweries, restaurants and stadiums. Mercedes-Benz Stadium marks the company’s largest installation to date.  

“Our goal in partnering with BarTrack was to identify and realize efficiencies in our draft system, streamline processes and optimize operations,” Gordon Barfield, VP of strategy and corporate development for AMB Sports and Entertainment and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, said in a statement. “We have been able to identify several areas of improvement, and BarTrack’s consulting team helped us develop an action plan to address these issues promptly.” 

$2.5 Million Seed Round for Game Broadcast Graphics Company Sport Buff

By Tom Friend

Sport Buff, whose graphics enhance fan engagement on game broadcasts, has received $2.5 million in seed funding to help continue its growth globally. 

The company already has made significant inroads with sports leagues, rightsholders and broadcast networks such as FIBA and DAZN with the Basketball Champions League, Fox Sports with the National Rugby League, ATA Football, the MLS, Caracol TV in Colombia and KAN in Israel. The funding will help Sport Buff expand its audience through platforms that include Web OTT, Android and iOS, YouTube and Twitch. 

Founded in 2019 by tech entrepreneur Benn Achilleas and broadcasting veteran Jonty Whitehead, Sport Buffs graphics are overlayed onto game broadcasts to entice fan engagement through polls, quizzes, data and posts. Through interactive gamification, viewers can receive rewards and prices, while on-screen sponsors can more effectively monetize audiences. 

Its most recent seed round included investments from UK-based Sport Republic, US-based Longboard Capital, New Zealand-based Calvert Drive and Cyprus-based Intrepid Ventures. Matthew Benham, owner of the English Premier League’s Brentford FC, also made an individual investment. 

Michael Vick Co-Founder of New NFT-Centric Platform FanField

By Tom Friend

Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick is co-founding the sports technology company FanField, an NFT-centric platform that will also create NIL opportunities for college athletes. 

Vick, through his connections, is rounding up an undisclosed roster of players who will release updated digital collectibles and interact with fans in conjunction with the company. Vick also wants some of the proceeds to be directed to charity, such as the Boys and Girls Club of America. 

The officially-licensed NFTs will become available in September, as well as Vick’s list of contributing players. Vick’s FanField ambassadors will attend in-person events, while the collegiate players joining through NIL will also have a personal or interactive presence with the public. FanField’s technology includes an athlete app that allows Vick and other players to digitally sign their collectibles for fans to create authenticity. 

Vick has a growing presence in NIL, having recently become a partner in Levels Sports Group as its head of NIL athlete development. Levels Sports Group’s clients include Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei and USC’s Malachi Nelson. Vick’s focus with Levels Sports Group is helping its college players prepare mentally and physically for the season, while monetizing themselves through NIL. 

Blast Motion Develops Personal Swing Trainer for Younger Players

By Tom Friend

Blast Motion has developed a sensor-based Personal Swing Trainer for younger baseball and softball players that is specifically designed to enhance swing speed and swing path. 

The company’s sensors, which turn any bat into a smart bat, had already gained a reputation with pro, college and elite travel ball players for its 3D Swing Tracer, Smart Video Capture and array of real-time metrics. By placing the sensor on the knob of their bats, players can gain instant access to analytics such as peak hand speed, attack angle, vertical bat angle, onplane efficiency, rotational acceleration, early connection, connection at impact and the all-important time-to-contact. 

The new Personal Swing Trainer, priced at $99.95, allows less accomplished baseball and softball players to leverage that same technology in a personal dashboard that uses green, yellow and red indicators to correct a player’s swing and maximize improvement. Blast Motion’s goal with the product is to get players started on metrics at an earlier age with the intent of creating a better swing within one week. 

Blast has recently named a bevy of elite softball players as brand ambassadors. Earlier this month, the company added pro players Amanda Lorenz, Aliyah Andrews and Nicole Bates to “Team Blast.’’ Two months prior, Oklahoma’s Jocelyn Alo, Jayda Coleman and Kinzie Hansen became its first active NIL college athletes. 

Meta Launches Metaverse Ad Campaign With East African Cycling Team

By Andrew Cohen

Meta has released a new metaverse ad campaign focused on Amani, a racing team of cyclists from East Africa. 

Team Amani is a 12-person gravel racing team of male and female cyclists from African countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. The new 60-second video shows Amani cyclists using Meta’s WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram apps to connect with each other and fans. Another part of the ad features Amani cyclists riding a stationary indoor bike while wearing a headset to compete in virtual cycling competitions. Online cycling app Zwift also makes an appearance during the ad.

“We used tech to compete, show what we can do and make connections,” a voiceover from an Amani cyclist says in the ad. We’ve gone far. But someday, when anyone can be in any room and everyone can compete, get next-level training—when that day comes, we’ll go much farther,” the voice says before the ad ends with a message to visit Meta.com/metaverse. 

ParkHub Acquires Payments Integrator Fuzse

By Joe Lemire

Parking management software provider ParkHub has acquired payments integrator Fuzse to bolster its offering for sports and entertainment venues. 

Fuze was founded by Lane Conner, who previously was a co-founder of what was Blue Star Payment Solutions before it was purchased by Stack Sports. Conner has been an advisor to ParkHub since 2015 and will now become the company’s president of payments. 

ParkHub offers an integrated software and payment platform that integrates parking and ticketing while offering business intelligence to operators. Dallas-based ParkHub has partnered with AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Field and American Airlines Center, among other venues. 

Fan Token Platform XCAD Network Becomes Crawley Town Sleeve Sponsor

By Andrew Cohen

Crawley Town FC, the English soccer club owned by cryptocurrency investment group Wagmi United, has signed a new shirt sleeve sponsorship with XCAD Network, an NFT platform that makes fan tokens for content creators and star YouTubers. Crawley Town players will wear XCAD’s logo on the sleeve of their jerseys during Tuesday’s Carabao Cup match against Premier League side Fulham FC. 

XCAD Network has created fan tokens for popular YouTubers such as KSI, Morgz and Joel Morris (JMX), with token holders able to vote in decisions related to the YouTubers and gain exclusive access to their content, event tickets and merchandise. Crawley Town brands itself as “Web3’s first football club” and has allowed fans to have a voice in club decisions, such as when the club signed midfielder Jayden Davis in June after it held a vote that was open to NFT owners and season ticket holders.  

Adidas is the kit supplier of Crawley Town and previously released alternate club jerseys that fans could only purchase through owning Crawley Town’s NFTs. Crawley Town currently plays in English soccer’s fourthtier division, EFL League Two, but the goal of Wagmi United is for the club to gain promotion to the top tier of English soccer.  

Qatar Will Deploy Facial Recognition Security at FIFA World Cup

By Andrew Cohen

Facial recognition cameras and drone surveillance will be used for crowd security purposes during the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar, according to AFP. Qatari organizers will use more than 15,000 cameras to monitor fan activity across the eight World Cup stadiums and on the streets of Doha. 

CCTV cameras on Doha’s city streets will reportedly utilize facial recognition while researchers from Qatar University are said to have developed drone surveillance systems capable of estimating the number of passersby on city streets. The data and footage will be transmitted to the Aspire control center, which Qatari officials developed as a headquarters to monitor gate security, transportation systems and maintenance issues across the World Cup stadiums and city streets.  

“We have eyes on the ground, we can view all of the 15,000 cameras across the eight stadiums,” Aspire CTO Niyas Abdulrahiman told AFP. He added, “What you see here is a new standard, a new trend in venue operations, this is our contribution from Qatar to the world of sport. What you see here is the future of stadium operations.” 

All local and international fans attending World Cup matches must fill out a Hayaa Card, a digital identification app from the Qatari government that requires fans to upload a photo of their face and to scan their passport.  

AFP’s report did not specify the developer of the facial recognition technology that will be used in Qatar. Russian technology company NtechLab previously deployed its facial recognition system at the 2018 World Cup in Moscow, which local authorities used to identify and arrest more than 40 suspects during events related to the soccer tournament. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil featured facial recognition stadium security from Japanese firm NEC, which also supplied its facial recognition cameras at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics 

Running App Perform Raises $1.2 Million Pre-Seed, Adds Marathon Meb as Advisor

By Joe Lemire

Perform, a new training app for runners that also pairs them with personal coaches, announced a $1.2 million pre-seed round led by venture fund Defy and joined by Techstars and technology executives from Calm, Uber and Fitbod. American marathoner Meb Keflezighi also joined the company’s board of advisors. 

Users of Perform are matched with a human coach who devises training plans and remains in contact for support and advice through calls and messages. The running app was released in beta earlier this year and builds upon the company’s previous product, a running app that collected data on heart rate and pace and used AI to generate a custom music playlist. Perform’s co-founders are Eric Brownrout, Christian Mathiesen and Leonard Adler.

Keflezighi is the only runner in history to win the New York City and Boston Marathons while also medal in the Olympics. He participated in four Summer Games, claiming silver in Athens 2004. Also joining the advisory board is his brother, Merhawi Keflezighi, who is CEO of Hawi Management, an agency for elite track and field athletes.