Can Trace Become The Fitbit For the X Games Set?

A new tool on Kickstarter can track everything from skateboard kickflips to snowboard backflips.

X Gamers are known more for their consumption of Mountain Dew than they are for their use of high tech, but one startup is trying to change that by bringing a taste of Silicon Valley-style thinking to ski slopes and skate parks.


Today, Los Angeles-based startup ActiveReplay unveiled Trace, a small device designed to track your activity as you bomb down snowy peaks or hit towering waves on your surfboard. Like Fitbit, Nike’s FuelBand, or Jawbone’s Up, Trace is taking on the quantified-self arena, but more specifically targeting action sports: surfing, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding. The rugged tool, which is shockproof and waterproof, can be strapped to your skateboard to monitor everything from tricks to speed to airtime. Extreme!

Developed by Anatole Lokshin, who helped pioneer the commercialization of GPS as the CTO of Magellan in the 1990s, and his son and product VP David Lokshin, Trace uses “9-axis inertial sensors” and GPS to track all types of metrics that can be synced with your phone via Bluetooth and shared with friends. Instead of strapping the device to, say, your wrist, Trace can be glued to your board (or helmet) to track activity. It’s roughly two inches in diameter, or “slightly larger than a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup,” David says.

“Bikers and runners have all these little gadgets that tell them their mile splits and how far they’ve gone, but surfers and skaters have none of that,” he adds. “You always want to come home and say, ‘I rode the longest wave ever!’ Or come home from the mountain and say, ‘I just went off this jump!'”

For skaters, that means you can not only map out lines as you skate around–while monitoring traditional metrics like calorie loss and distance–but also keep track of tricks. That’s the secret sauce of Trace: the algorithms the startup has created to tell the difference between specific movements of your board. The team has been working on them for roughly a year, and according to Anatole, “We can tell you the difference now between an ollie or a kickflip or whatever.” For skiers, snowboarders, and surfers, that means tracking such metrics as vertical height, wave distance, rotation, the number of flips, and more.

For the less extreme, Trace may come across as a hobby gadget. But it’s actually part of a growing set of quantified-self products aimed at increasingly specific applications. There’s Withings for weight measurements; Lark for sleep patterns; 23andMe for ancestry and DNA information; and a whole host of other products designed for non-human applications, such as Nest for your home or Whistle for your dog.

Trace is another step in the direction of application-specific tools. And given the popularity of products like GoPro, the mobile camera for action sports, there is a strong market for these tools. ActiveReplay had previously developed AlpineReplay, a ski app that measures some of the above metrics from your smartphone.


The company is introducing the product on Kickstarter, where it hopes to raise $150,000 for production and begin shipping by February 2014.

[Images courtesy of ActiveReplay]


About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.