For many people running isn't a problem, but running well? That's a different question. Correct posture, foot strike, cadence - it's much more than just putting one foot in front of the other. And while we often focus on how accurately our gadgets measure heart rate, distance or calories burned, the biomechanics of running have been historically difficult to track with from any part of the body, let alone the wrist.
Swiss company Myotest says it's cracked the problem with software that can work with basic accelerometers, and is now working to get its cutting-edge tech into wearables devices.
Read this: How to run better with wearable tech
Founded in 2004 by Patrick Flaction, who now trains leading athletes like World Cup alpine skier Lara Gut, Myotest was created to bring biomechanics and smart coaching together, with a goal to improve athletic performance based on people's unique physiology. Over the years it has made devices to do this, but only now has it "cracked the code" for wrist wearables, says CEO Christophe Ramstein.
"Biomechanics is really a set of metrics that have a physical objective representation of the person, of the runner, of the persons swimming, of the person playing tennis or playing golf," he tells Wareable. "There are some products on the market doing it - Garmin's products do vertical oscillation, cadence and contact time, but the thing is to measure that they need to use chest straps."
The chest is closer to the center of mass, which means it's easier to measure, and which is why it's been the way biomechanics have been measured. But doing it from a watch? "That's the holy grail for this next generation of runners," says Ramstein.
Myotest is tracking vertical oscillation (which is basically how much you bounce when you run), cadence, undulation, ground contact time, power, and how regular your motions are (do you tick like a metronome?). Ramstein says that, when measuring these metrics from the wrist, Myotest is as accurate today as Garmin is from the chest. It says it's getting about 94% accuracy from the wrist, and a little over 95% from the chest.
The fact Myotest only needs a basic accelerometer also means it has a massive market of wearable devices to tap into. "We're bringing this science we've developed over the last 10 years to a market that doesn't know anything about it, because it's struggling in measuring from the chest. We can bring this to the watch."
Moving to full dynamic coaching
After much rigorous testing that compared accelerometer data against complex cameras, Myotest reached a point it was confident with its technology, and is now announcing its biomechanics library is ready for business.
It's got a partnership with Sigma Sports in Germany for putting its tech in running computers and sports watches, but Ramstein tells Wareable we'll hear about some other big names getting involved before the year is out. He also says this could go well beyond running, to swimming, tennis, you name it.
Myotest doesn't just want to provide the data though; like many other fitness tech companies right now, it knows smart, dynamic coaching is the future of this domain. "I want to build a smart coach in the cloud," says Ramstein. The coach would not only give feedback but "eventually give you training plans that really fit your style, as opposed to being something generic. Ramstein says they already have something they're and they're looking to commercialize it.
For the time being, if it truly has cracked the code, Myotest could have something highly valuable to offer the wearables market in its biomechanic brains alone. "Biomechanics from the wrist is hard, and we've been at it for 10 years… but now it's here, and people will be using it."