Trace-able riding with new device


ore than two years ago, Anatole Lokshin and his son David created Ski Magic, a rudimentary app that allowed skiers and snowboarders to chart the runs they took, how fast they were going, the tricks they landed and the calories they burned using the GPS function on mobile phones. That eventually evolved into the popular ski/snow tracking app Alpine Replay. "GPS is everywhere. It's in your shoes, in your phone, in your car," says Anatole, Alpine Replay's CEO and a former developer at Magellan Navigation. Now, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, the outfit is expanding the program for skiers and snowboarders, as well as skaters and surfers, through a new device called Trace.

Courtesy of Trace

This closeup shows the Trace attached just behind the front trucks on the bottom of a skateboard.

The concept is simple. Data is accumulated using nine tiny inertial sensors. The sensors are housed in a waterproof data pod the size of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, which is mounted to a board or helmet. The sensors, explains David, Active Replay's vice president of products, "really allow you to accurately measure a body in motion. If you're doing tricks skateboarding, how well you're landing them. If you're surfing, the distance, how many waves you caught, how sharp your cutbacks are." The data then automatically syncs to the app on your phone (within an estimated range of 100 feet), so users can compare their performance to leaderboards and post to Facebook and Twitter.

Composing the algorithms to identify the information and calibrating the device is more complicated. Skateboarding is particularly challenging due to the volume of recognizable tricks. Trace captures speed, vertical distance, distance traveled, airtime and more. The device can also identify maneuvers like 360s and kickflips.

Local riders around Southern California have been testing prototypes since early 2013. The first surf test occurred around February. Alpine Replay enlisted the help of Han-Su Kim, videographer for The Berrics, to test the device's application on a skateboard. "Its ability to identify tricks is extremely impressive, considering the fact that there's never been anything similar, to my knowledge," says Kim.

The Alpine Replay crew -- currently eight people strong -- recently conducted informal research at X Games Los Angeles. They polled spectators' familiarity with Trace and soon discovered that most had not thought of tracking their board sessions, even though it's become standard practice for cyclists and runners.

With just a few days to go -- the Kickstarter campaign ends Sept. 14 -- the group has raised $147,000 of its $150,000 goal. When funds are secured, hard-tooling is the next phase: having machines custom-made to build the pods, creating molds for them and acquiring resisters, electronics and other parts. "The biggest challenge is to make sure it's small and not going to break," David admits. But the team is confident it can deliver a first full run by March 2014, adhering to the timeline it's made public.

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