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Eye-tracking camera from Arlington startup brings sports fans new views

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Longtime Arlington resident Jay Hedley flew A-10 fighter jets for 12 years in the Maryland Air National Guard.

When flying missions, his plane would track and record what he could see in front of him, as well as the targeting of missiles using a heads-up display. He and other pilots would review the video footage together after flying a mission to debrief.

“So then the idea came,” he said, “why don’t we train athletes the same way we use technology like this from the jet?”

So he founded HeadVantage, which equips athletes with mini cameras and eye-tracking technology. The HeadVantage camera can be fitted under the bill of a baseball cap and track the eye movements of the wearer. It can also measure the diameter of the wearer’s pupils a hundred times per second, Hedley said.

Apart from tracking eye movements, the camera also records high-definition, stabilized video footage that can be streamed live and shown on TV.

“One way you can think of it is, where GoPro can’t go,” said Hedley, distinguishing HeadVantage from the popular action camera brand.

The HeadVantage camera is fitted into a pair of golf glasses (via SportsTech)

Because of the camera’s eye-tracking and streaming abilities, HeadVantage can provide unique content to sports fans, said Jenna Kurath, the head of Comcast NBCU SportsTech.

“To be able to see it from the perspective of the athlete, to get into the mind of the athlete through the eye-tracking of those split-second decisions that they’re making,” she said, “this is going to bring new fan-engagement content to the forefront.”

With this camera, sports commentators will be able to analyze an athlete’s performance from their viewpoint.

“Oftentimes our commentators will do the replay and say, ‘How did they do this?'” Kurath said. “Now this is the ability to kind of see it through the eyes of the athlete to really get a little bit more into their mind.”

Arlington-based HeadVantage was selected as part of Comcast NBCUniversal’s SportsTech Accelerator in 2022, a program that connected 10 startups with different program partners, such as NBC Sports, World Wrestling Entertainment and NASCAR. HeadVantage was chosen from among over 800 applicants around the world, according to a news release from NBCUniversal.

Since joining the program, HeadVantage has been prototyping the camera to be used in golf, fitting it in golfers’ glasses.

Instructors in NBC Sports’ golf shows, such as School of Golf‘s Martin Hall and others in the company’s subscribers-only GolfPass content, have used HeadVantage cameras, said Kurath, who also ran the startup program. The camera will be used in a few celebrity golf tournaments in the summer, she noted.

Founder Jay Hedley stands at the HeadVantage station at a Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Accelerator event (courtesy photo)

Hedley founded the startup in 2020, according to his LinkedIn page. Currently, his main customer is NBC Sports and his main goal for HeadVantage this year is to get the camera used in NBC golf coverage.

“I’d love to get embedded in NBC golf this year, maybe with baseball this year,” Hedley said, “So baseball and golf will be the two sports we’d focus on this year.”

Although Hedley did not intend to sell his cameras on the mass market, he is looking to expand their uses to sports other than golf.

“That’s to demonstrate the use case of it, and then the next step is to take that and embed it into the face mask of a football helmet, or a cricket helmet, or a hockey helmet,” he said.

Hedley has also been in discussion with the Atlanta Braves baseball team and is scheduled to talk with Sky Sports in the U.K. in August for using HeadVantage cameras in cricket, he said. He would like to see the camera used in “any sport with a helmet,” he said.

Hedley hoped to spread HeadVantage to other areas as well, such as for police body cameras and a tool for diagnosing concussions.

Headquartering the company in Arlington gave Hedley the opportunity to talk to Georgetown University, the Washington Commanders football team and the Pentagon about expanding the camera’s markets.

“Arlington is kind of right there in the nexus of it,” Hedley said.

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