Under Armour's Best Idea: A Smart Shirt That Measures Heart Rate and G-Force

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We asked Under Armour to tell us the most interesting thing they're working on. Here's what they gave us.*

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Where great ideas really come from. A special report

The problem: We know if an athlete -- say, a football player -- is performing at a high level. That's what statistics are for, like yards receiving and dropped passes. But there are some statistics we don't know that would help coaches and players understand their performance in real time -- like heart rate, running speed, and the impact of violent hits. If only we could measure vital information instantaneously with a computer attached to players' bodies on the field...

The idea: There's a shirt for that! It's the Under Armour E39, and it might be the most sophisticated shirt in the world. A computer built into the front can measure heart rate, breathing rate and G-force and send the information out to computers to run real-time analysis on how the athletes are performing.


The potential: If coaches knew more about athletes' vital stats, they could make smarter decisions about who to sit and who to play based on who seemed injured, who seemed tired, or who just wasn't trying terribly hard. If they knew more about G-force, they could keep players with a concussion history off the field after a big hit. If players knew more about their performance on a second-to-second basis, they could tailor their workouts to improve their play and monitor their progress.
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*We also asked Siemens, Duke University, venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, and more. Read the rest here.


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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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