July 19, 2024
Ex-pro athlete invents digital running track to unleash new world records

A British startup plans to create a new wave of athletics records by reinventing the running track.

London-based Feldspar is engineering the surface to maximise speed. It all starts with the flooring design, which converts more running energy towards horizontal propulsion.

As a result, sprinters can reduce the force required for upright momentum and put extra power into going forward. By improving energy return, the system could also reduce fatigue.

The track will also deliver new athletic insights. Through a combination of embedded sensors and camera-based analysis, Feldspar will capture real-time data directly from the surface.

Coaches could use these findings to optimise training programmes, race strategies, and injury management.

Feldspar also wants to bring the analytics to spectators. The startup plans to package traditionally elusive data — such as stride length, acceleration rate, and maximum velocity — into stats for fans.

“On a broader level, we expect it to help build stories around athletes’ profiles and create visually captivating sports entertainment experiences,” Alvina Chen, the founder of Feldspar, told TNW.

Chen herself was previously a professional athlete. But in 2020, her career as a runner was cut short by a diagnosis of myasthenia gravis (MG), a chronic autoimmune disease.

As she came to terms with the condition, Chen found a new path to pursue her passion for the track.

Redefining running

Artist's impression of the Feldstar running track
An artist’s impression of the running track installed in London. Credit: Feldspar
Artist's impression of the Feldstar running track

Innovations in footwear, apparel, and training have been credited for countless new world records in athletics. But track upgrades have been minimal since the 1968 Olympics introduced an all-weather running surface

Chen founded Feldspar to change that. By combining sensor data with novel energy conversion, she wants to push athletes to new levels of performance.

Feldspar still needs to prove the theories work in practice, however. With funding from Hong Kong-based investors, the company will first develop a prototype system.

The design packs all the tech into a modular surface. Built for easy assembly and portability, Feldspar envisions customers transporting the mobile track worldwide.

Production of the flooring is earmarked to start next year. According to Feldspar, the final product will be “the world’s first sensor-enabled performance running track.”

“There is a huge opportunity in revolutionising this sport,” Chen said. “By digitising the running track, Feldspar is not only providing new avenues for athletes’ development and pushing the boundaries of human performance but also moving athletics towards a new era of exhilarating, high-energy live international events.”

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