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Tech vs. COVID-19: Innovative Sports Instruction Using Virtual Coaching Apps

With quarantines and social distancing, the virtual world has expanded. Technological innovations abound in healthcare, entertainment and telecommunications. Even virtual travel and tourism have introduced new concepts over the last few months. Therefore, it’s no surprising that the pandemic is also serving as a catalyst for other areas of innovation. With physical barriers in place, virtual solutions make the most sense. And virtual coaching in athletics is one such area where these technologies are expanding.

Technology is already playing a role in a variety of sports since COVID-19 affected the world. Digital audiences now attend major sporting games where matches are enhanced using advanced technologies. Likewise, new fitness platforms have emerged so people can avoid risking their safety in gym environments. And now, new coaching apps and platforms are emerging offering expert virtual coaching to anyone. For kids and parents specifically, these coaching apps are a dream come true.

“We are out to revolutionize coaching. There is a huge problem with kids not being able to play sports because they don’t have access to coaching. We put the coaching in kids’ pockets.” – Ricky Collis, Cofounder of Mustard and former Minor League Baseball Pitcher

The Demand for Coaching Apps – Before and After COVID

Unfortunately, the need for virtual coaching existed before the current pandemic overtook the world. Studies have demonstrated that as many as 70 percent of kids stop playing sports by the age of 13 years. One might assume that this is due to a lack of interest or competing responsibilities. But in actuality, the biggest factors accounting for this lack of participation and cost and poor access to coaching. Virtual coaching and coaching apps help address these issues by not only pairing kids with coaching experts. But they also make these connections much more affordable.

Someone riding an exercise bike and using an app
Virtual coaching may solve the riddle of athletic improvement during the COVID age.

Of course, the situation has worsened somewhat since COVID-19 hit the scene. Kids and adults alike have improved their digital skills with the pandemic. However, school and gym closures have reduced access to high-level athletic coaching. Because of this, the demand for expert coaching and personalized fitness plans have actually increased. Coaching apps and virtual coaching platforms offer a great solution to the situation. Thus, it’s not surprising several innovative companies are now offering such innovations in this time of COVID.

“[Tom House’s] coaching and mentorship have played an integral role in my success in the NFL. His scientifically-designed programs, extensive knowledge of throwing mechanics, and cutting-edge training techniques are unparalleled.” – Drew Brees, NFL Pro Bowl Quarterback and Mustard Investor

Mustard – An Innovative Virtual Coaching Platform

One interesting startup company involved in virtual coaching app platforms is called Mustard. Overall, Mustard has received over $1.7 million in funding, and it is led by some high-profile individuals. Cofounder Dr. Tom House has served as a throwing coach in both the NFL and MLB. Likewise, Jason Goldsmith is well known as a mental performance coach for professional athletes. These and other sports professionals are advancing a virtual coaching app that replacing in-person coaching with motion analysis. And though it is focused on baseball only currently, it will soon expand into all types of athletics.

In essence, Mustard uses artificial intelligence and machine learning as part of its virtual coaching platform. It combines over 40 years of biomechanical data from the world’s top athletes with a computer vision system. And it does this via a person’s mobile device to allow personalized motion analysis and instruction. Customized performance plans are provided in real time that also include actionable steps and inspirational content. Given the talent and level of technical sophistication, Mustard is expected to be one of the premiere coaching apps available.

“This isn’t about the hard-core, getting them to specialize in the sport. This is really tapping into what we’ve heard from some of our parents—that they just want to expose their kids to sports at a younger age and have it be fun.” – John Kelly, CEO of CoachUp

Other Coaching Apps Already Available

While Mustard represents one of the most innovative coaching apps, it certainly isn’t the only one. Several fitness apps now exist that provide instruction, inspiration and motivation for athletes and sports enthusiasts. But also, a variety of coaching apps designed for all types of individuals are also on the market. For example, Lucid is a virtual coaching platform that provides mental skills coaching for users. The coaches on Lucid have notable experience having coached players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant previously. Volt is another coaching app that provides sport specific training plans for users. In partnership with Gatorade, Volt develops these plans based on scientific research.

One of the more popular caching apps today goes by the name of CoachUp, which is now based near Boston. Though this exists on a virtual coaching platform, CoachUp connects individuals of any age with the right coach. After users provide specific information about their coaching needs, age and location, CoachUp connects them with the perfect coach. In doing so, access barriers are reduced, allowing greater participation and satisfaction. Individual, group, camps and clinics are all available settings as well. Stephen Curry is also one of CoachUp’s key partners. Though less of a virtual coaching platform compared to Mustard, CoachUp nonetheless is filling an important void.

The Role of Technology in Athletic Coaching

With artificial intelligence and machine learning advancing, new coaching tools will definitely appear in the coming years. Motion analysis and comparisons to historical data will create a brave new world for athletes of the future. At the same time, these technologies lend themselves well to virtual coaching opportunities. Coaches will still be in high demand. But their expertise in guiding the development of coaching apps may be increasingly needed. These trends were already in motion well before the pandemic. But it’s clear that COVID-19 has accelerated these developments greatly. It’s just evidence of another paradigm shift that will at least in part be attributed to the coronavirus.

 

COVID-19 has proved to be a challenge for the world. To read more about individuals overcoming challenges, check out Ed Kopko’s PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.

The Future of Transportation Is Now – Flying Cars Could Be a Reality

In the cartoon “The Jetsons”, getting around by flying cars was the norm. This futuristic depiction of transportation seemed pretty far advanced at the time. But did you know the Jetsons cartoon took place in the year 2062? That’s not too far into the future from today. So, it’s worth asking the question, just how far are we from seeing flying cars in everyday life? Is this a realistic picture for the future of transportation? Depending who you ask, you might get conflicting answers to your question.

The concept of flying cars becoming a reality dates back at least a decade. Several companies have been investing millions into their development and touting their debut. But each passing year, expectations go unmet without any evidence of change. This seems to be changing, however, as the number of companies investing in various types of flying vehicles. In addition to technological advances, new designs are being pursued that are truly revolutionary. As far as these investors are concerned, flying cars will be the future of transportation sooner rather than later.

Conceptualizing a World with Flying Cars

Having flying cars as a means of transportation is more than simply exciting. There are many real advantages to having this as a means of primary travel. For example, air travel from a healthcare perspective could provide better emergency care to individuals when needed. Flying cars could also better connect remote areas to urban ones. And with trends currently favoring working from home, this mode of daily transportation could expand options for residence. The ability to access new areas quickly and efficiently would invite all kinds of new opportunities.

Some sort of expo with flying cars
Flying cars are the future of transportation – and that future seems fun!

At the same time, having flying cars as the future of transportation has some infrastructure challenges. If everyone plans to be flying around in their own vehicles, air traffic rules have to be developed. For planes currently, this is tightly controlled and requires active monitoring. In addition, fueling stations, insurance policies, and parking regulations would also need to be addressed. At least at the current time, none of these issues have been well addressed. Naturally, this would be a big part in making this future of transportation a reality.

“We want to realize a society where flying cars are an accessible and convenient means of transportation in the skies and people are able to experience a safe, secure, and comfortable new way of life.” – Tomohiro Fukuzawa, CEO, Sky Drive Inc.

New Developments in Flying Cars

In the last few years, a number of innovative companies have been aggressively pursuing the development of flying cars. In essence, companies have been approaching designs from two major perspectives. One envisions flying cars as more like a small plane with fold-out wings and a steering wheel. These designs still require an area for take-off and landing. However, more recent designs have embraced a drone-like, quadcopter configuration. These models do not drive like cars but instead lift and land in a vertical fashion like a drone. Both have both appealing and limiting factors, however, neither are quite advanced enough for everyday use.

One of the latest companies to show off its quadcopter style is Sky Drive Inc. This startup was launched in 2012 and has received $37 million to date. In addition, Toyota is one of its notable backers. In August, the company held a public demonstration of its SD-03 as it flew around a field for 4 minutes. The SD-03 has 8 motors and takes up the space of about 2 cars when parking. But currently, its manageability still requires refinement. And its flying duration is only 10 minutes long. Clearly, this prototype is not yet ready for prime time.

Another company that has been around even longer is Terrafugia, which has been developing a car-like design with fold-up wings. Founded in 2006, the company is based in Boston and was started by a couple of MIT graduates. They have been predicting flying cars as the future of transportation for over a decade. However, their gasoline-powered model is unable to take flight from a standard road because of its design. Though attractive from a user point of view, Terrafugia’s Transition model needs refinement as well.

“In designing an unexplored, new genre of transportation known as the flying car, we chose the keyword “progressive” for inspiration. We wanted this vehicle to be futuristic, charismatic and desirable for all future customers.” – Takumi Yamamot, Design Director, Sky Drive Inc.

Increasing Interest in Flying Cars

While Toyota is backing Sky Drive in its pursuit of flying cars, it is also developing other ideas. Recently, the company filed for a patent that approaches flying cars from a different design perspective. Rather than simply having a quadcopter configuration, their patent allows for a dual mode vehicle. In other words, it can serve as both a car and a flying vehicle. In the design, each of the 4 wheels are on long arms that can be repositioned to serve as quadcopter propellers. This transformer prototype could really revolutionize the future of transportation if it works.

Toyota is not alone in its pursuits of innovative ideas for flying cars. Porsche and Boeing have also partnered together in their pursuits. Their partnership has been named Aurora Flight Services, and they plan on developing a drone-like quadcopter design as well. This will be interesting since Boeing’s initial attempts at flying cars failed. Their V-22 Osprey did not live up to expectations, which is why they are likely partnering with Porsche.

Will the Future of Transportation Ever Look Like the Jetsons?

In all 50 states, New Hampshire is the only one that has adopted flying car regulations. They allow manned flying cars to travel along public road. Unfortunately, there are not any current models capable of taking advantage of these laws. While advances and the level of interest in flying vehicles are occurring, the number of hurdles to overcome are multiple. Like autonomous cars, these designs must wait for infrastructures and regulations to catch up. In all likelihood, technology will deliver some great designs well before this takes place. But as far as the future of transportation is concerned, flying cars are likely a few decades off.

 

Innovations is bold living! For more on living a Bold Life, check out Ed Kopko’s PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success!

The COVID-19 and Gut Health Connection

Since the novel COVID-19 virus was discovered late last year, the complexities of the virus have amazed scientists. Its capacity to rapidly spread among populations has challenged the most developed epidemiological centers globally. Likewise, its ability to quickly wreak havoc on the respiratory system has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. The initial reaction was to assume COVID-19 was similar to other viral pandemics like influenza. But this has not turned out to be the case. In fact, COVID-19 continues to perplex researchers even as new discoveries are found.

Understanding this, some of the latest research findings are now highlighting how COVID-19 and GI symptoms are often linked. Gastrointestinal complaints are not only common, but they may be presenting symptoms in some populations. At the same time, COVID-19 and GI symptoms may have long-term effects on gastrointestinal health. Given the importance gut health is to immune function, this has notable implications. While much more needs to be learned about COVID-19 and gut health, it’s clear a distinct connection exists.

“We used to think of SARS-CoV-2 as just a pulmonary or respiratory disease. But over the last couple months, a lot of evidence has emerged that SARS-CoV-2 also affects the intestinal tract.” – Siew Chien Ng, Assistant Dean of Medicine, Chinese University in Hong Kong’s Centre for Gut Microbiota Research

COVID-19 and GI Symptoms Common

It’s now common knowledge that COVID-19 primarily presents with respiratory symptoms in symptomatic individuals. Cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, and loss of taste and smell are well-recognized as potential features. But it’s increasingly evident that COVID-19 and GI symptoms are also common. Overall, 80 percent of symptomatic patients describe having a loss of appetite. Likewise, a fifth of these patients have other GI symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Based on this, researchers began to suspect the virus may also have a negative effect in gut health.

A woman about to summon Dragonball Z powers
Evidence is mounting of the relationship between gut health and the ability to recover from COVID-19.

In exploring this matter further, researchers in China began collecting stool samples of individuals infected with the virus. They enrolled both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients in the study. The results interestingly showed that half of all the patients had positive virus titers in their stool. In fact, many have persistently positive stool tests a week or more after respiratory tests were no longer positive. This not only pertained to patients with COVID-119 and GI symptoms but to asymptomatic individuals as well. Based on this evidence, it’s clear that the virus is able to attack areas outside the lung.

“…We have learnt that half of children participating in this study are asymptomatic with SARS-CoV-2 infection, and those with symptoms do not typically have a cough or changes to their smell/taste, with gastrointestinal upset a far more common symptom.” – Tom Waterfield, MD, Medical Researcher, Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast

COVID-19, Gut Health and Children

The research involving adult stool samples are not the only interesting finding regarding COVID-19 and gut health. Another recent research study examined roughly 1,000 children who were known to be infected with the virus. Half were asymptomatic whole the other half were not. Of those who were symptomatic, many again had cough, fever, shortness of breath and other typical complaints. But notably, a much higher number of children had COVID-19 and GI symptoms. Diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain were much more common in this group when compared to adults.

This study was conducted in the United Kingdom at Queen’s University in Belfast. Likewise, the participants were ages 2 to 15 years overall. In reviewing the study, researchers could not explain why children’s gut health might be more vulnerable to COVID-19. However, they suspect that different developmental and immune features may be at play. Regardless, studies in both adults and children show that COVID-19 and GI symptoms are not rare occurrences. Not only does this have implication in detecting those with the disease. It may also be important in terms of transmission and new healthcare therapies as well.

“Our emerging understanding of COVID-19 has found the disease to have multisystem involvement including the nervous, cardiac, vascular [excess clotting] and finally the digestive systems, among others.” Sherif Andrawes, MD, Director of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, Staten Island University

More Than an Infection

The effects that COVID-19 appears to have on gut health extends beyond virus particles in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. In case, researchers suspect the same antigen targets that exist in the lung may also be present in the gut. As a result, viral particles that survive the stomach’s acidic environment might then attack GI cells. This is supported by changes in the microbiome of patients with COVID-19. The same Chinese researchers described above also found infected patients had reduced numbers of protective microbes in the GI tract. As such, COVID-19 and GI symptoms would be more common. For others with better disease tolerance, this may not be the case.

Other researchers have also noted that COVID-19 patients are at higher risk for other gut health problems. Specifically, radiologists have seen changes in imaging studies that suggest COVID-19 can cause reduced circulation to GI tissues. COVID-19 is known to increase the risk of clots in patients, which has even led to strokes. Therefore, the radiologist researchers suspect the bowel ischemia may result from small clots in GI circulation as well. All of these findings point to the fact that COVID-19 is not isolated to the respiratory system alone. Researchers are realizing it is clearly a multi-organ and systemic disease.

Long-Term Effects on Gut Health Unknown

The findings involving COVID-19 and GI symptoms remain relatively early at this point in time. The mechanisms by which COVID-19 affects gut health must be further studied and elucidated. However, current studies support the fact that virus has a negative impact on gut health in the short-term. This is why a sizable percentage of patients do have GI symptoms with their disease. What remains unclear, however, is the long-term effects of COVID-19 on gut health. Because much still must be learned, it’s clear that prevention remains the best approach to the situation.

 

The world has certainly faced a challenge in COVID-19. To read more about individuals who have overcome challenges, check out Ed Kopko’s PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.