Sunday, September 14, 2014

Interview with the possible makers of Jolt Sensor.

Last week, I was contacted by Seth Berg, who is looking to create a sensor for head injuries; he's got a kick starter campaign here. I know, I know, I sound like a broken record with head injury issues, but as our game progresses, I've seen more and more head injuries bench amazing players. Slowly, we're adapting; people are wearing certified helmets, and leagues are putting policies in place that help players identify when they have a head injury and keep them from playing during an incident. We still have a long way to go, and maybe inventions like this one.  I collected questions from my readers, and had Seth answer them. Read through them and see if you think this might be something that could benefit our sport.

Why does this specify youth instead of any athlete? Would it not detect an adult concussion the same?:
The language we use towards youth athletes was purely a marketing choice, not a technical one. Our initial target market was children that play sports (we made this choice based on market size and market research that we have done). This means that the Jolt Sensor works the same way for adults.

How long does the sensor work for? (not per charge...but say you use it for two seasons of derby or whatever... is there a point when the sensor isn't sensitive anymore?):
The first thing to go in the device (as well as most electronic devices) will be the battery. The sensors and other embedded components in the device have very long life spans when used in normal operating conditions (this means not in very extreme temperatures). The battery is rated at thousands of charge/discharge cycles. This means that the manufacture has studied the battery capacity over the course of it being charged and discharged many times. Because our device is very low power the battery will fully discharge about once every 2 weeks. Our battery is rated for ~600 cycles which means it should last for 600 cycles * 2 weeks =  1200 weeks, or ~23 years. Of course there are other ways to kill the device (burning, hitting with a sledge hammer etc), but under normal operating conditions it should last for many years. (Hope that wasn't too technical).

What testing has been done to ensure proper sensitivity (whether too sensitive or not sensitive enough) and does it need to be re calibrated over time. 
It is important distinguish between the Jolt Sensor, which is the device itself and includes a battery, charger, computer, bluetooth radio etc. And the acceleration sensors (accelerometers). We have designed the device and how all of the components work together, but the electronics components (including the accelerometers) are purchased from other manufacturers. This means that the sensitivity and longevity of the accelerometers has been tested by them. The sensitivity of the sensor does not degrade with time, but rather with the types of accelerations that the sensor experiences. The sensor is rated at 200 g's. To put this in perspective the acceleration experienced by the astronauts on the space shuttle is 3g's, so one would need some very special equipment to cause the sensor to exceed its ratings. 
TL;DR: You'd have to try very hard to cause the sensors to exceed their capacity which is what causes their readings to degrade. And they do not need to be recalibrated.

What is considered "potentially dangerous" and who did they work with to set that standard?:
Again this is a bit technical, but we use software to calculate the Head Injury Criterion (HIC) of any given impact (you can find the details here: Essentially this takes into account the type of acceleration experienced by the head over time. This is important because a big acceleration over a very short period of time isn't necessarily as dangerous as a lower acceleration that lasts a while. This metric was originally developed as a means to test automotive safety and is used in sports as well.

How would this clip inside helmets like the Triple 8 brainsaver, S1 lifer, etc? (we use these brands of helmets, plus hockey helmets in derby):
For these helmets the sensor clips onto some type of headband/bandana underneath the helmet. I went to a bout 2 days ago to see how it would fit on skaters and different helmets. Here's a picture of a skater with it clipped on to her bandana (just above her ear), but any sort of headband underneath the helmet will do. For hockey helmets it clips on to the hard plastic ring near the ear.

Who has access to this info? How long does it stay on file?:
The information for an individual user is only accessible by the person that purchased the sensor and setup their account through our app. They can manage this data as they see fit. We will also be anonymizing and aggregating data from users. This means that impact and cognitive data will have all identifying information removed and will be combined together. The reason for doing this is to gain a better understanding of how various types of impacts and impact histories related with changes in cognitive scores. This is helpful both in tweaking our detection algorithms as well as adjusting policies to improve athlete safety. For example if we see that across all users that play soccer, impacts of a certain type (let's say headers) are highly correlated with cognitive issues, then we will be able to say with some certainty that this type of impact is dangerous and should be avoided. Privacy is extremely important to us and as I mentioned earlier, no data that we have will be specific to any individual, but rather an aggregate of many users.

What brought your attention to roller derby? Granted, we are dealing with a lot of head injuries because of how our game play has changed, but what specifically got your attention about our sport?:
Not a particularly exciting story, but we had a few people see the website and Kickstarter and email us asking if it could be used in derby. I got on the phone with them, learned about the sport and its concussion risks, and decided to pursue it. I went to my first bout last night and it was really fun (and much more exciting than watching youtube derby videos). As a sport played by adults with jobs, skaters seem to be much more concerned with their personal safety than kids playing sports, because their livelihood and career are dependent on maintaining good health. So, we've found skaters particularly receptive to the technology.

Would you be looking for test leagues for this device?:
Yes. Part of our Kickstarter campaign allows bakers to contribute by "giving a sensor," where we will manufacture a sensor and give it to an athlete at risk of a concussion. We are holding a twitter/facebook voting campaign to choose teams to receive these sensors (details here: We will also be looking for teams in the St. Louis area to beta test the sensor. Our biggest criteria in finding teams to test with is their level of interest. If a there is a team that isn't geographically close to us but is really excited about the technology we want to talk to them. Of course at the moment we have not manufactured the production version yet so we aren't ready to begin testing with teams, but that is one of our top priorities. 

What is the price point going to be for this device?:
Our desired price point is $100 USD. This is subject to change based on supply capabilities, manufacturing costs etc. If we can we would like to bring it down even lower than that, and as we scale we believe we will be able to.

What is your time line?:
Here is the timeline we outline in the Kickstarter campaign:

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