American football is a rough game, but at least one team is counting on Israeli tech to make things easier for players.
On a visit earlier this month to Israel, New England Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, attended an event sponsored by Israeli crowdfunding firm OurCrowd, where they reviewed the latest in technology that could make football a less risky pastime.
OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved introduced Kraft, who was in Israel with 19 members of the US Pro Football Hall of Fame, to Israeli brain-tech start-up Elminda, which recently received FDA clearance for use of its brain activity monitoring system in assessing brain function in patients.
ElMindA’s BNA Analysis System assesses brain function using sensors that measure and analyze neural activity during specific brain processes. It presents information about brain activity and measures it against a database of over 7,000 brain functions to see how a patient’s condition stacks up.
“Elminda is a perfect example of the kind of breakthrough technology coming out of Israel which is close to the hearts of these football greats,” said Medved. “It offers a potentially huge breakthrough for mitigating sports injuries, detecting sports-based concussions, advancing brain research and changing the lives of the two billion people worldwide living with brain disorders.”
Besides Elminda, the group – which included Green Bay Packers great Jim Taylor, former Patriots and Jets running back Curtis Martin, former Baltimore Colts wide receiver Raymond Berry and Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Curley Culp, among others – saw a demonstration of the ReWalk bionic skeleton that allows individuals with spinal cord injuries to walk again. ReWalk allows independent, controlled walking similar to that of an able-bodied person, with computers and motion sensors doing the “heavy lifting.”
The system controls movement using subtle changes in the center of gravity, mimics natural gait and provides functional walking speed, enabling even paraplegics to move independently — and even to run marathons, like a paralyzed woman did in 2012. For NFL Hall of Famer David Baker, the ReWalk system was a revelation, as was the other health tech on display, which included an intuitive portable device with a smart camera designed to assist the visually impaired from Orcam, as well as technology from Inpris designed for the blind that recognizes the individual movements of each fingertip anywhere on a touchscreen.
“I think the exoskeleton’s ability to help a paraplegic walk is such an emotional thing to see,” said NFL Hall of Famer David Baker. “We were interested in every one of these companies, from helping the consumers to helping blind people read, to helping process information better. For a lot of our players, we appreciated the ability to understand what’s happening in the brain with a concussion. It was all fantastic.”
Besides health tech, the group met start-ups whose technology could help enhance the football experience, both for players and fans. Among the companies: Glide, the world’s first and only messaging application with streaming video technology, perfect for social media sharing and “instant replays”; Briefcam, which allows viewers to search video files for specific attributes, people, or events (useful when trying to check out if a player violated clipping or scrimmage rules, for example); MUV Interactive, with a video technology that turns any surface into a 3D screen; and Cimagine, a virtual reality platform that allows users to add elements to a device screen (useful for fantasy football and ‘what if’ scenarios).
Robert Kraft and the Kraft Family have long been supporters of Israel, especially in helping to fund the settlement of Ethiopian Jews here, as well as spending millions of dollars to build the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem, where Israel’s flag and tackle football leagues play.
But for Kraft, the visit went far beyond football. “I don’t think there’s a better place that you can bring people no matter what their faith might be,” he said. “They come here and their lives are changed.”