It’s World Cup season, which means soccer fans around the globe will be rooting for their team–and perhaps dreaming about what it might be like to play at an elite level themselves. The sports analytics company Catapult, which helps professional teams in a variety of sports track their athletic performance, has launched a new wearable specifically for amateur soccer players who want to improve their game. The system, called Playr, allows you to look at your stats in comparison with some of the game’s top players–like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Playr was designed by the London-based firm Layer, which was tasked with creating every piece of the system: the branding, digital app, the pebble-sized wearable, and a crop top that holds the wearable in place during play. The biggest design challenge? Taking Catapult’s product for pro teams and creating something that was accessible for amateur players.
Catapult’s main product is designed for use by professional coaches, and focuses on team statistics with in-depth data analytics. So instead of giving users an overwhelming amount of data that would be hard to interpret and use, the new wearable focuses on a few parameters: how fast you go, how far you sprint, and how much ground you cover in a game. It also provides users a GPS-enabled heatmap of where they were on the field during their game or practice. “There’s so much technology in the elite level that consumers don’t need, want, or would be able to interpret or understand,” says Benjamin Hubert, the founder of Layer. The Playr system is designed to help aspiring players by giving them a few key metrics that they can look at to track how they’re improving over time–or when they need to work harder to reach their goals.
Hubert and his team also streamlined the wearable’s interface by removing all its buttons to make it as simple as possible to use, and rethought the shape to appeal to an audience of mostly young men. “There’s a reason it’s a muscular hexagonal form, rather than super neutral like you might expect of an iPhone,” Hubert says. “We wanted to inject a level of high performance into the visual.”
It works like this: Players wear the crop top either under or over their jersey and drop the wearable inside a special pocket at the base of the neck. Once inside, the wearable is activated by magnets inside the pocket. From there, it tracks performance, with a battery that lasts for up to three games. It’s charged through induction charging and instantly syncs data once you place it on the charging pad.
Once you’ve got the data into your app, called the SmartCoach, you can analyze it and see your progress across practices and games–as well as how you stack up against your friends and teammates. The app also provides recommendations from professional coaches like the head of performance at Wales FA and head of fitness and conditioning for Leicester City FC about how to improve, including training suggestions like how you should work out on a recovery day. It also shows you what it would take to play like Messi and Ronaldo. That’s right–maybe if you ran two times faster and covered three times as much ground, you’d be playing in the next World Cup alongside your heroes.