NEW YORK – DribbleUp founder Eric Forkosh speculates that Americans are lagging behind the rest of the world in football because young people in this country have less access to quality training and less emphasis on regular exercise – and it offers a simple, portable solution.
In the back room of Sweetleaf Café in Long Island City, the 24-year-old Brooklyn native and creator of best-selling smart basketball puts his new invention on the court: the DribbleUp soccer ball, with a smartphone app. which optically follows its movement. . He puts his iPhone on a small tripod. The camera calibrates itself by recognizing one of the ball’s three logos, then Forkosh begins a series of footwork exercises organized into a playlist. (“Instead of songs, you have exercises,” he joked.)
A soccer instructor appears on the phone and demonstrates the activity, which in this case consists of rapid-fire side strikes. Two cones appear on the screen, superimposed via augmented reality; they stay green when he keeps the ball between them but turn red and invite vocal encouragement from the coach when they veer away. A speedometer lights up on the side to keep pace.
Even in these tight spaces, Forkosh is able to practice his technique under the watchful eye of a former professional player – all video instruction courtesy of Yannick Salmon, who has played for Jamaica’s international youth teams and at the foreigner in Finland. The app may also offer data like the speed and curvature of shots, but Forkosh’s face lights up as he discusses the ball drills.
“Goal tracking is important, but the day-to-day contact is what excites me the most,” Forkosh said. “I don’t know if it’s necessarily [the answer], but I know this is the right direction.
Salmon, 27, is now a full-time coach and runs the Salmon football training program in New York City. He said touching and ball control drills were a regular part of the homework he gave to his young players. The soccer ball and the DribbleUp app, launched today on Kickstarter, are therefore a fun and interactive tool to convey the importance of these exercises. When one of his 10-year-old players used a demo version of the app, the boy didn’t take a break for 30 minutes.
“It’s a staple of our program that I give to all of my kids,” said Salmon. “It’s so important. Most players around the world just spend all day with the ball. Children in America are a little different. They have more things that consume their mind, so anytime you can give them those touches and fall in love with the ball, it’s going to have a big effect in the years to come.
DribbleUp football is the successor to basketball and shares Forkosh’s vision to be “a training tool for everyone”. The genesis of smart sports equipment began with him and his younger brother, Marc, 20, playing and training like children. Eric freely admits that Marc is the most athletic and competitive athlete, but Eric has always had a passion for robotics, even building one that played soccer.
“He played sports and I was building robots that played sports,” said Eric Forkosh.
Forkosh studied engineering at Cooper Union while continuing to work in robotics in parallel. He invented a commercial product called Drone Cell, a cellular module that connected drones to the Internet, and worked with an academic group to design a few health products: two devices monitor a patient’s heart and another detects edema. . (These are part of the four patents in Forkosh’s name.) He even took a year off to teach a robotics course at Cooper Union on microcontroller projects while consulting for Social Bicycles and getting his pilot’s license.
Their basketball product starred Gabe Gibbs as a video coach – he has worked with Metta World Peace, DeMar DeRozan and Gilbert Arenas, among other NBA players – and received early funding from the Dorm Room Fund ( a student-run venture capital fund) and subsequently angel investors, including Detroit Pistons forward Anthony Tolliver. It has also secured support from New York City’s Future Works incubator program which supports local entrepreneurs. The Charlotte Hornets used DribbleUp basketball in their youth camp.
Importantly, no electronics are built into the basketball or football. This prevents the bales from needing to be loaded; Forkosh has found that user compliance decreases with additional instructions. As Salmon noted, all of his interns are on their smartphones all the time anyway. The absence of microchips in the ball also eliminates any subtle weight distortion that will affect the trajectory of shots or rebounds. The use of augmented reality and video instructions help gamers immediately know how they are doing.
“There’s something about this live feedback that’s so critical,” Forkosh said, adding, “If you don’t measure, you can’t learn from it.”
There is also a social dynamic, where players can compete with their friends on the scores they earn while doing exercises and share videos of smooth freestyle maneuvers. For the shooting tracker, the Forkosh brothers researched the average skill levels from goalies to youth, amateur and pro levels. From this data, they compile a future feature that will determine whether a user’s photo is likely to have been saved or not.
“What we found out is that there is a pattern between where he hits the goal, where the goalkeeper is, and the speed and curve of the goalie,” said Eric Forkosh.
The ball has been meticulously crafted: yellow for easy visibility in various lighting, with a quality matching texture and hand-sewn panels. The app runs on the same patented technology that powers the basketball version, which has been made possible by improvements to the camera and processor of smartphones in recent years.
“I’m not trying to change anything, I’m just trying to make it better,” Forkosh said. “I’m just trying to make it more magical.”