Former golf pro teams up with Seattle-area AI experts on app that uses 3D motion analysis to improve the game – GeekWire

3D analysis, right, of a 2D video image, left, in the Sportsbox AI app. (Image AI Sportsbox)

Before you pick up another mulligan, consider that the tool to improve your golf game might not be found in your bag of clubs.

The makers of an app that uses artificial intelligence and 3D motion analysis say they’ve created a revolutionary way to improve your golf swing through video shot on your phone.

Sportsbox AI is a startup that was launched in 2021 from AI Thinktank, a Bellevue, Washington-based AI idea incubator founded by tech veterans Mike Kennewick and Rich Kennewick. They were the brothers who founded Voicebox Technologies, an early leader in voice recognition and natural language technology, sold in 2018.

Along with Samuel Menaker, former VP of Engineering at Voicebox, the AI ​​Thinktank brain trust has applied its experience and knowledge of voice AI and machine learning to visual understanding, and specifically the translation of 2D videos into 3D information.

Jeehae Lee, CEO of Sportsbox AI. (Sportbox AI Photo)

The golf expertise in the equation is provided by Sportsbox co-founder and CEO Jeehae Lee, who played more than five years on the LPGA Tour before transitioning to a career in media entertainment. sportsmen. Lee led strategy and new business development at Topgolf, the high-tech golf and entertainment company.

Meeting Menaker and seeing what AI Thinktank was already working on changed his view of what was possible when it came to teaching the game.

“I’m first and foremost a student of the game,” said Lee, who now coaches friends who are getting into golf. “I felt like a lot of what I know about learning the game and improving the game could translate into helping to create a better product.”

The key to this product is the data it collects, which is important for tracking progress and evaluation.

“The main problem we want to solve is how a single cell phone camera can allow people to accurately measure any activity in 3D from any reasonable angle, height and distance,” said Menaker said. “We can calculate hundreds of different types of body movements (joints, limbs) in degrees, inches, velocities and accelerations. This can be applied to any activity.

Sportsbox always relies on experienced coaches to translate what is captured and help students understand what is suggested as a solution. The company offers tiered subscription tiers for these trainers.

“The core of what we want to champion is 3D everywhere,” Lee said. “It’s accessible and not a motion capture studio that takes eight cameras and $100,000 to set up, but it’s available on your phone.”

The company has several top instructors among its advisers, including David Leadbetter, an investor who Lee said said the app’s technology compared to current video practices is “comparing an MRI to just an X-ray.”

At Topgolf, Lee was involved in Toptracer, a technology that tracks ball trajectory, speed, height, and more. At Sportsbox, technology brings everything back to the body mechanics that allowed the ball to do its job.

“It’s almost like we’re finishing the picture of the Why“, Lee said. “We know What happened, but why?

The company is working on partnerships with broadcasters and golf centers. And, after golf, the company plans to answer that why question for a variety of sports like tennis or baseball, as well as exercises like yoga or movements involved in physical therapy.

Sportsbox AI CTO Sam Menaker. (Sportbox AI Photo)

Sportsbox now employs around 15 full-time people. Lee, who is based in San Francisco, joined Sportsbox at the request of the co-founder Stephanie Wei, the former “Wei Under Par” blogger who played golf with Lee at Yale University and is a marketing executive. Dr Phil Cheetham – the self-styled ‘3D Guy’ – was previously director of sports technology and innovation at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and is the chief scientific officer of Sportsbox.

The startup is completing a round of seed funding and investors include Elysian Park Ventures, PGA of America, Leadbetter, instructor Sean Foley and professional golfer Michelle Wie.

The Bellevue team works on ML models, AI and computer vision problems, application (cloud and mobile) and UI development, integration of all components, backend development and infrastructure, according to Menaker.

“We also built our own tools and infrastructure to generate and manage data to train our own ML models,” he said.

When asked if his own golf game is improving because of Sportsbox, Menaker said “absolutely.”

“When we started, I had no idea how to hit a golf ball, how to move my hands, how to move my shoulders. Now I know how,” he said. I do it right all the time, but I’m making good progress.”

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