In today's combat sports landscape, everyone is trying to get an edge. Everything from extraordinary training measures to extreme methods of recovery and everything in between is being utilized by athletes around the globe. Any little scrap of progress is important, no matter how infinitesimal it might seem to the average human.
Among the tools that are becoming available to help fighters hone their striking skills is a unique and innovative bit of technology from the folks at Responsive Sports. It's called the iPunch glove, and it looks to be a treasure trove of useful data that athletes and trainers can put to use in working out strengths and weaknesses in striking.
The iPunch gloves are the world's first "smart" combat gloves. They have sensors built right into the glove to let you know exactly how hard you're punching, what type punches you're throwing, and a multitude of other specifics to help you become a better striker.
The implications for these gloves are not just for the athletes and trainers, but for the statisticians that record this data manually. Think Fight Metric or Compustat. The odds makers can put this type of data to good use when making their lines, as well. In short, the benefits of this technology can positively impact a multitude of sectors within the sport.
Here's a video overview of the iPunch:
Bloody Elbow recently caught up with the creator of the iPunch glove and CEO of Responsive Sports, Steven Cains, who fielded questions on the technology, app and production of the gloves. Here's what he had to say:
Bloody Elbow: Give a basic overview of the sensors in the iPunch gloves.
Steven Cains: There are 2 different sensors in each glove. The first sensor measures the impact force of a punch. The second sensor measures motion across the free axis, which is forward and backward, left and right, and up and down.
From this data, we can figure out the strength of the punch, which we do in pounds. It also lets us know what type of punch it was; hook, jab, straight or an uppercut, as well as allows us to determine the speed of the punch.
Bloody Elbow: Do the sensors use an accelerometer?
Steven Cains: Yes, one of the components is an accelerometer.
Bloody Elbow: Where are the sensors placed in the gloves?
Steven Cains: Right now, we're only launching the MMA glove, which is a standard, 4 oz glove. The impact sensor is mounted underneath the padding, across the knuckles. The accelerometer is on the wrist support.
Bloody Elbow: What is the accuracy margin on these?
Steven Cains: It's pretty accurate. We've taken it into a pneumatic actuator, which is primarily used in car crash testing, only this one is dialed back a bit to simulate a punch, and it's performed pretty well.
Bloody Elbow: How many times has it been tested?
Steven Cains: We've done over 500 rounds, so conservatively, I'd say over 1000, because we've had about 4 or 5 iterations of the glove.
Bloody Elbow: If you were to estimate the accuracy percentage, what would it be?
Steven Cains: I'd say 95% conservatively.
Bloody Elbow: These gloves work in concert with a phone app. How does that work?
Steven Cains: The app is for Android and ios, and all your data is sent over Bluetooth in real time. The app gets the information directly from the sensors. Basically, every millisecond, it gets positional data and impact data. From there, we've made a few features in the app.
There's a low impact one called a 3 minute round which is a standard 3 minute round. You start the round, put the phone in your pocket (or wherever you want within Bluetooth range), punch away for the 3 minutes, and then get your data at the end. Your trainer can also watch them in real time to monitor your power, and instruct you with tips and advice based on the data that's coming in.
We've got another feature called "Test of Strength" which was born of our test runs in gyms where everyone wanted to have a go with the gloves. You each get 3 attempts to hit your hardest punch, and then a winner is announced at the end. There's definitely a lot of bragging rights involved in that.
The last feature is the iPunch Trainer. It's sort of like Guitar Hero meets boxing. You get audible instructions, left hook, right jab, etc and you have to punch along with them. The instructions become more difficult and faster as you reach higher levels.
All this data can be accessed from the cloud via your tablet, phone, pc or laptop. You can share it with your friends, and we also have a leaderboard function where every round is updated and you can get average and median figures. There's a definite testosterone fueled competition going on there.
You also have an individual profile where every single round with data is uploaded so you can easily track your progress to see how you're progressing in your training.
Bloody Elbow: Are the instructions in a British voice? (Note: The creator is from England)
Steven Cains: No, we hired an American to do the instructions. If we'd done it in a British voice, we'd have to ask "Please" after every instruction [laughs].
Bloody Elbow: Are there specific groupings for the app, say weight class, age, etc?
Steven Cains: Yes. There are groupings by weight class and gender, and we also do a pound for pound ranking. We're trusting people to be honest about their weight, and we take their punch force and divide it by their weight to get a pound for pound ranking.
Bloody Elbow: Is there interest in the gloves from any of the promotions right now?
Steven Cains: There's definitely been some. Boxing has been a little slow. They don't really want to adapt. The trainers don't seem to like data, and view it as some sort of abhorrent cheat. With MMA, the trainers are a bit younger and more receptive.
The interesting thing we've found in doing media is that there are quite a few fighters that are interested in technology like this. Later in the year, I'll be visiting some fight camps and helping out during athlete training.
Bloody Elbow: What are the production costs for these gloves?
Steven Cains: We use pretty high end gloves. They're not polyurethane. We use what's called Rex Leather, which is a much more durable synthetic. We don't use actual leather, because it does wear in a way that affects the sensors. This, combined with the sensor technology makes production costs higher than standard gloves.
Bloody Elbow: What about the wear on the sensors?
Steven Cains: The sensor does wear over time, but we've put a machine learning algorithm into the product, so it does adapt the formula. The formula isn't fixed. It's very adaptive to each puncher. For example, if someone is taller than me, they probably throw a longer jab than I do, so the formula will adapt and learn the patterns and will get used to the person.
Bloody Elbow: Are the sensors metal, and do they add any significant amount of weight to the glove?
Steven Cains: No, they're not metal. It's a soft polymer that's very flexible. It doesn't add any weight, because it weighs something like .1 of a gram.
All the electronics, the firm stuff, is in the wrist support. We encourage these to only be used for bag and pad work while it's in the Beta testing period.
Bloody Elbow: What is the projected price point of the gloves once they're on the market?
Steven Cains: Around $150. Sadly, it's the electronics that make the gloves pricey. There are 2 sensors in each glove, plus the electronics in the wrist supports. It's also the cost of manufacturing, and the extra requirements. For instance, we have to go through the FCC to get a special transmission certification.
Bloody Elbow: After the Beta testing period, will these gloves be marketed for use in sparring and in competition inside a cage or ring?
Steven Cains: Yes. We're talking about this to promoters now, for the next stage of the company. It's definitely the next step, and we have a more advanced version that we're working on.
Responsive Sports has an Indiegogo campaign up right now that has a small batch of gloves available for those interested in getting some before they hit the open market, as well as a variety of other perks at several different investment price points. For the record, you can get a pair of these for $139 for the next 28 days. You can check out the campaign right here: