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Ex-golf pro links with AI experts in the Seattle area on an app that uses 3D motion analysis to improve the game - GeekWire

3D analysis, right, of a 2D video image, left, in the Sportsbox AI app. (Photo by AI Sportsbox)

Before you take another Mulligan, keep in mind that your golf improvement tool may not be in your club bag.

The makers of an app that uses artificial intelligence and 3D motion analysis say they’ve created a revolutionary way to improve your golf swing with a video shot on your phone.

Sportsbox AI is a startup launched in 2021 from AI Thinktank, a Bellevue, Washington-based AI ideas incubator founded by tech veterans Mike Kennewick and Rich Kennewick. They’re the brothers who founded Voicebox Technologies, a leader in speech recognition and natural language technologies that sold out in 2018.

Together with Samuel Menaker, former Vice President of Engineering at Voicebox, AI Thinktank is working to apply its expertise and knowledge in voice AI and machine learning to visual understanding, specifically how to translate 2D video into 3D information.

Jeehae Lee, CEO of Sportsbox AI. (Sportsbox AI Photo)

Golf experience is brought into the equation by Sportsbox co-founder and CEO Jeehae Lee, who played more than five years on the LPGA Tour before moving on to a career in sports media entertainment. Lee led the strategy and new business development at Topgolf, the high-tech golf and leisure company.

Meeting Menaker and seeing what AI Thinktank was really working on changed her view of what was possible when it came to teaching the game.

“I am a student of the game first and foremost,” said Lee, who now coaches friends who play golf. “I felt that much of what I knew about learning and improving the game could translate into helping build a better product.”

The key to this product is the data it collects, which is important for progress tracking and evaluation.

“The main problem we want to solve is: How can a single cell phone camera allow people to measure any activity with 3D accuracy from any reasonable angle, height and distance,” Menaker said. We can calculate hundreds of different types of body movements (joints and limbs) in degrees, inches, speed, and acceleration. This can be applied to any activity.”

Sportsbox still relies on experienced coaches to translate what is captured and help students work through what is being proposed as a fix. The company offers tiered subscription levels for these coaches.

“The core of what we want to advocate is 3D everywhere,” he told me. “It’s accessible and not some motion capture studio that requires eight cameras and $100,000 to set up, but it’s available on your phone.”

The company has several leading trainers among its advisors including David Leadbetter, an investor who, according to Lee, said the application technology compared to current video practices is like “barely comparable to an MRI to X-ray.”

At Topgolf, Lee was involved in Toptracer, a technology that tracks a ball’s trajectory, speed, length, etc. At Sportsbox, technology brings it all back to the body mechanics that made the ball do its job.

It’s like we’re completing a picture WhyHe said to me. “We know what or what Happened, but why? “

The company works on partnerships with broadcasters and golf centers. And after golf, the company envisions answering this question of why a variety of sports like tennis or baseball are played, as well as exercises like yoga or the movements involved in physical therapy.

Sportsbox AI CTO Sam Menaker. (Sportsbox AI Photo)

Sportsbox now employs about 15 people full time. San Francisco-based Lee joined Sportsbox at the request of the co-founder Stephanie Wei, the former “Wei Under Par” blogger who played golf with Lee at Yale University and serves as Head of Marketing. Dr. Phil Cheatham – known as “The 3D Man” – was previously Director of Sports Technology and Innovation at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Head of Science at Sportsbox.

The startup completes an initial funding round and investors include Elysian Park Ventures, PGA of America, Leadbetter, coach Sean Foley and professional golfer Michelle Wie.

The team at Bellevue works on ML models, computer vision issues, artificial intelligence, applications (cloud and mobile), user interface development, integration of all components, backend development and infrastructure, according to Menaker.

“We have also built our own tools and infrastructure to create and manage data to train our ML models,” he said.

Asked if his golf game is improving thanks to Sportsbox, Menaker said, “Absolutely.”

“When we started I had no idea how to hit a golf ball, how to move my hands and shoulders. Now I know how to do it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I’m doing it right all the time, but I’m making good progress.”