BOA uses Vicon to create next-generation footwear


Fit for purpose

Sports technology brand BOA’s Performance Fit Lab has two key challenges to contend with: the diverse range of sporting disciplines it analyzes and the high volume of tests that it performs. Thanks to a combination of BOA’s Vicon system and an integration with The MotionMonitor that ties it to other performance analysis tools, the company’s biomechanists are managing their high output levels and delivering performance insights for a variety of athletes.

BOA was founded in 2001 by snowboarder Gary Hammerslag. His goal was to apply the engineering expertise he had acquired while designing medical solutions to elevating the performance of snowboard boots. The result was a ‘Fit System’ that improves the way footwear conforms to the foot using a dial and metal wiring to replace conventional lacing. In the two decades that have followed, BOA has partnered with brands designing footwear across fields ranging from trail running to golf to medical bracing.

While the technology was born of Hammerslag’s intuition, the BOA Fit System is now informed by the work done in the company’s Performance Fit Lab at its headquarters in Denver, Colorado, USA. The 200 Sq.ft space knits together a Vicon motion capture system, Vicon Blue Trident inertial measurement units (IMUs), force plates, force insoles and a dual radar system with integration of The MotionMonitor, which delivers data in real-time.

A critical part of the lab’s design is its adaptability. It includes an instrumented treadmill, a ski treadmill and a golf bay. “It really has the flexibility to be doing tests across multiple segments in a given week, because we don’t have to reconfigure everything,” explains Kate Harrison, PH.D. manager at the lab.

That adaptable setup enables the lab to study disciplines including running, agility movements, workwear, hiking, golf, cycling, skiing and snowboarding, basketball, badminton and tennis. Eric Honert, a senior manager at the lab, was excited by how fast this data could be integrated with their system. “I was awestruck,” he says.

A tightly integrated workflow

BOA conducts over 400 hours of elite athlete performance testing each year. It typically turns around a 10 person study in three weeks, and it will have two or three studies running in parallel, meaning the lab has to perform upwards of 850 tests per year.

Having BOA’s Vicon system integrated with its other technologies is an important factor in hitting those demanding targets. “That integrated partnership means that everything is just so seamless and efficient,” says Harrison. “It’s great being able to use Vicon through The MotionMonitor and integrate with our other equipment, and the post-processing is so smooth. The live data visualizations make it easy to make sure the data quality is great as you’re collecting it. Compared to other experiences I’ve had with motion capture it’s just so much more streamlined and efficient, which has been awesome. That’s been really critical for us.”

The MotionMonitor is a 3D motion analysis platform that collects real-time data from multiple types of movement measurement hardware. Innovative Sport Training, the maker of The MotionMonitor, has been partnered with Vicon since 2008 and provided BOA’s movement analysis hardware and software in a turnkey system. BOA’s Vicon data streams into The MotionMonitor live, and the biomechanical models are built from there. In many cases this avoids the need for multiple templates and enables a subject to be set up in two to five minutes, helping to streamline BOA’s high-volume workflow.

“We’ll place clusters of markers on individual segments and then digitize the joint centers,” explains Honert. “It helps in terms of post processing—you don’t have to do some sort of calibration afterwards to get those joint centers.”

“I would associate a process this streamlined with a clinical setting, where you’re doing one thing really fast, but where you can’t change your model to ask a different question and the system is more plug and play,” says Harrison. “The combination of the streamlined and efficient nature of our setup with the ability to do all the different types of testing we do here is pretty incredible.”

The level of support that BOA has received from both Vicon and The MotionMonitor has also been important in maintaining the lab’s high level of throughput. “The support has been awesome,” says Harrison. “Having a company like Vicon that you can get on the phone the same day as you have a problem to troubleshoot is great. With the number of tests that we’re doing we just can’t afford to be down for a week, so being able to get immediate hardware support has been critical.”


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