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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Sportip, a startup from the University of Tsukuba

The creation of sports as a growth industry was clearly designated as a national policy in 2016 as one of the "Public-Private Strategic Project 10," and the creation of new value through the sports industry has been attracting attention. What is the research and development of "AI"? We interviewed Mr. Yuya Takahisa, President of Sportip, who aims to create a society that is comfortable for all people to live in through technical motion analysis, which is highly versatile not only in sports but in all fields.
*This article is reprinted from an article published in Startup ism on August 16, 2019.

Sportip Corporation Yuya Takahisa, Representative Director and CEO

In recent years, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including AI, IoT, and Big Data, has brought rapid changes to the economy and society, and the government has been promoting measures in its growth strategy based on the four pillars of "promoting investment," "strengthening human resource activities," "creating new markets," and "further integration with the global economy. In 2016, the government clearly identified the development of sports as a growth industry as one of the "Public-Private Strategic Project 10". Needless to say, accelerating innovation in a wide range of fields is key to restoring Japan's economy to its virtuous growth potential, and the creation of new value through the sports industry seems to be attracting attention as a way to achieve further growth.

Sportip AI, an application that provides solutions based on individual physical characteristics, data, and objectives through motion analysis

We are focusing on the research and development of "Sportip AI," a system that provides solutions based on individual physical characteristics, data, and objectives in the area of physical movement instruction (fitness, sports, musical instrument playing, rehabilitation, etc.). The system uses a smartphone or camera to capture the movements of the person receiving instruction, and based on the knowledge of exercise science, the AI determines points for improvement and provides the most effective instruction for the individual. The "Sportip AI" enables users to receive accurate guidance online, and also makes it possible to quantitatively evaluate angles, speed, distance, etc., which previously had to rely solely on the tips and intuition internalized by trainers and coaches. This enables more efficient exercise guidance than in the past. Currently, the system is being used on a trial basis as a closed beta version at various sports-related facilities, including running schools and fitness personal trainers, and we are using the feedback to improve the system. The facilities have commented that the quantitative evaluation has deepened their understanding of the system and made it easier to improve issues.

In addition, as a Tsukuba University venture, we have access to a wide range of resources, including the University's athlete network, extensive knowledge of physiology, sports medicine, and other related research laboratories, filming locations, and creative personnel. The foundation for a highly reliable system was completed in a short period of about six months through joint research with the university, utilizing scientific knowledge in biomechanics, exercise physiology, coaching, and sports medicine while utilizing motion capture and other specialized equipment without the need to invest huge amounts of money. This enabled us to complete the foundation of a highly reliable system in a short period of about six months. I am very grateful that we have been able to engage in business development in a favorable environment since the first year of the company's establishment.

As a service aimed at the "to B" market, we are now focusing mainly on working with local governments and major companies in order to increase awareness. Since "Sportip AI" is an application that provides solutions based on individual physical characteristics, data, and objectives in the area of physical movement instruction, it is a good fit for local governments to work with public facilities, schools, and professional sports teams across the country, and we hope to help create local communities through sports and improve the health of local residents. and health promotion of local residents through sports. On the other hand, in collaborating with major companies, we hope to co-create new businesses that go beyond sports through cooperation with the specialized fields of each company, and we also hope to improve our system through the collection of a wide range of data. In the "Innovation Leaders Development Program" currently underway to foster entrepreneurs in the sports business field, we are collaborating with local professional teams: the Urawa Reds and Omiya Ardija of the J-League and the Saitama Seibu Lions of professional baseball, and are proposing a business plan to solve the problems faced by each team through data analysis based on actual issues they are facing. We plan to propose business plans to solve the problems of each team through data analysis based on their actual problems. We see this as a great opportunity for us, as it is not easy to make contacts with professional teams.

Gave up on his dream due to an injury, but a word from his father gave him the strength to take a leap of faith.

In fact, I devoted myself entirely to baseball until I entered college. In elementary and junior high school, I played in the Boys League, and in high school, I was so immersed in baseball that I practiced from early morning to late at night every day, aiming for the Koshien National Championship. However, despite developing thoracic outlet syndrome in junior high school, I continued to practice under instruction that ignored my physical characteristics, and as a result, my symptoms worsened rapidly and I was unable to continue playing baseball. I was depressed beyond words because I had lost all my goals that I had devoted myself to since I was a child. At the time, I could not even watch the Koshien Stadium, which I loved so much. However, looking back, I sometimes think that the time I spent doing nothing (or not being able to do anything) was good for my life in a sense. In other words, I have been soaked in baseball my whole life, and I have not done anything other than baseball. It was a very precious time for me to think about what I should do and what I want to do in my future life. Perhaps sensing my feelings, my father said to me, "Since all you have done is play baseball, you are at a disadvantage in many aspects. I decided to change my mind and become a baseball coach and teacher to support players, and entered the University of Tsukuba.

After enrolling in the program, I took a wide range of studies in physical education and sports with the primary theme of "What is the best instruction for each human being's physical characteristics and goals?" This was the main theme of my study at the university, and I took a wide range of courses in physical education and sports. Unlike other universities, I was able to take classes in a variety of other departments, such as economics, management, and the arts, in addition to the specialized departments. My father's words really resonated with me, and I took many classes in fields that interested me, trying to learn everything I could. In my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to work with the Cambodian Olympic and Paralympic Committee to promote sports for the disabled in Cambodia, and I was able to go to Cambodia and experience sports for the disabled. The purpose of these activities was to raise awareness of the importance of sports for people with disabilities and the excellence of sports for people with disabilities. In Cambodia, there is a unique culture where prejudice against people with disabilities still remains strong. Through the activities, I saw many people actually change their minds and enjoy playing sports, and I felt the unlimited potential of sports. Above all, it was a moment when I was able to confirm with my own eyes the essence of the universal message of "peace" and "tolerance" that the Olympics holds, and it was also a moment when I felt that there must be people around the world who have the same feelings as I do. In short, I had an epiphany that the challenges that accompany "movement" can be shared by people all over the world, and I decided to start working on a service that would help people with the same challenges as myself. And since my grandfather and father had been involved in business themselves, I naturally chose the path of entrepreneurship.

In my junior and senior years, I read many articles on IT-based sports and fitness-related topics with a view to starting my own business to achieve my goals, and worked as an intern at FiNC Corporation (now FiNC Technologies, Inc.), which provides healthcare services using cutting-edge technologies such as AI. (now FiNC Technologies, Inc.), a company that provides health care services using cutting-edge technologies such as AI. The company's services were in the field I was researching at university, and despite being a young company that had only been in business for four or five years, it had a track record that went beyond the development of its own services. I thought I might be able to get some hints on how to start a business, so I knocked on the company's door myself. I was fortunate to be able to work as an intern in the CEO's office, supporting the CEO's right-hand man in a variety of tasks. At the time, there were many simple tasks that I could not perform, and I was sometimes harshly criticized, but I believe that it had the greatest impact on my personal growth. What I am most grateful for is that I was able to learn the philosophies of "never compromise" and "trust your subordinates" at close proximity to key people. This is where strong organizations are born - and this is where I was able to pave the way to start my own business in one fell swoop.

A livable society for all people through behavior analysis

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are finally approaching next year and are gradually gaining momentum. Generally speaking, the sports market has been declining year after year from around 2002 to 2013, but has been slightly increasing in the past few years, coupled with the growing health consciousness. In addition, as part of the government's growth strategy, it has been announced that the market will expand to 15.2 trillion yen by 2025, and there is no doubt that the sports industry is now a growth industry. While several concrete measures have been proposed, I believe that the key to the success of the sports industry's growth lies in changing the mindset of each and every citizen. Traditionally, the sports industry has been dominated by the sale of sporting goods, but nowadays, the number of unstructured and unprecedented products is gradually increasing, and I believe that new value creation is required. If, for example, we can present value to governments and corporations from a new angle through sports, as we have done, a chemical reaction will occur, and I am sure that this will bring about innovation in the sports industry.
Through "Sportip AI," I am taking on the challenge of an industry that involves movement guidance. Motion analysis is a technology that can be applied not only to people involved in sports and fitness, but also to people who have had unforeseen accidents, the elderly, the disabled, and all other people, because the relationship between motion and health risk is broad. It is a technology that can be applied not only to people involved in sports and fitness, but also to people who have been in accidents, the elderly, the disabled, etc. It is by no means a technology that is only needed by those who are serious about sports and fitness, but rather a technology that is versatile in all fields. during fiscal year 2019, we will first enter the field of rehabilitation. We intend to use AI to provide guidance on movement, allowing physical therapists to focus on mental care, which will help to reduce the burden of understaffing and provide highly accurate rehabilitation guidance. We are also considering joint research in a wide range of genres with collaborators, and plan to develop and collaborate on hardware as well as software support. Our goal is to create a society in which all people can achieve self-fulfillment by utilizing technology to "maximize individual potential.

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