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Finnish mobility training stick woos NBA and NHL

TE3 Balance has transformed the traditional exercise stick into a personal physiotherapist. Credits: : TE3

Bye-bye back pain and stiff necks. Finnish sports technology company TE3 has transformed the old faithful exercise stick, using data and artificial intelligence, into a personal mobility trainer.

Looks can be deceiving. From the outside, the TE3 Mobility Training Stick looks like any other exercise stick: lean, long and cylindrical. But inside, it holds an array of sensors and technology capable of analysing mobility and movement in real time. TE3, the startup behind the smart stick, believes this data is crucial in helping to cure issues caused by our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

“We use our bodies so little nowadays that we no longer understand how to properly control their positions and movements,” says Ari Laakkonen, CEO at TE3. “This has slowly resulted in muscle tensions, mobility imbalances and limitations in range of motion. These, in turn, lead to pain, stress and sleeplessness because the body can never completely relax.”

The TE3 stick digs down to the root of these problems. Used both in training and rehabilitation, the stick gives instant feedback by vibrating if an exercise isn’t performed correctly. This highlights in a concrete way any issues with how a user’s body moves. An accompanying mobile app guides the user through the results and offers tailored exercises for improving mobility, coordination and body control.

No business like sauna business

TE3 wouldn’t be a Finnish innovation if sauna wasn’t part of its story. In 2014 Laakkonen sat in a sauna with his friend, sports coach Jarkko Kortelainen, and talked about developing wellbeing equipment together.

A very Finnish beginning: a chat in a sauna led Ari Laakkonen (left) and Jarkko Kortelainen to develop a digital exercise stick for improving mobility. Image: TE3

“Jarkko immediately pointed at the broom handle in the corner and said, ‘if you can embed technology into that handle that can tell the angle of the broom, we are getting somewhere,’” Kortelainen recalls. “We decided that evening to incorporate sensors into an exercise stick which will warn if the stick starts to lean or rotate the wrong way.”

Some market research showed the duo were onto something new. Exercise sticks have been used in sports for decades, but not for sensor-based testing. Laakkonen and Kortelainen started to talk with coaches, physiotherapists and doctors to develop their idea further, and TE3 was founded in 2016.

Several prototypes and demos later, the startup launched two versions of its mobility stick in early 2018 – one targeted at consumers and one for professional use.

“Mobility is already a trend, but there hasn’t been a measuring device for it that can be used anywhere,” Laakkonen says. “Physiotherapists and other professionals can use our stick for more detailed measurements, while home users can test themselves, get advice on what to do and follow their progress.”

NBA and NHL play ball

Sports professionals have been quick to see the stick’s appeal. It has already been adopted by physiotherapists, athletes and coaches in Finland. Now, TE3 is testing the waters across the pond with three NHL and NBA teams.

“I can’t name the teams yet, but we are developing testing and training protocols for athletes with them,” Laakkonen explains. “The consumer market is our ultimate goal but working with professionals gives us credibility.”

The duo developed their idea with the assistance of coaches, physiotherapists and doctors. Image: TE3

Another focus for TE3 is internationalisation. In addition to Scandinavia, the company is looking at Germany, Singapore and California in the US, and has just signed its first reseller in South Korea. A Japanese deal will follow soon.

“We have an ambitious goal for 2019: to have over 10 resellers in more than five countries,” Laakkonen enthuses.

TE3 is also in the midst of patenting its smart mobility stick. But this isn’t because it is afraid of competition. The startup is confident it is not only its technology, but also the concepts and knowledge the company is building around the technology that set it apart.

In the end, what matters most to TE3 is motivating people to move and take care of their bodies.

“I would like to see us become a trailblazer in improving general knowledge about mobility and movement control,” Laakkonen says. “Our smart stick offers data but also a concrete experience in where a user’s mobility issues lie. This, hopefully, motivates people to make changes.”

“Measuring shouldn’t be done for measurements’ sake, you always need to have a goal in mind,” Laakkonen explains. “Our smart stick measures mobility but it also lets you know what your mobility imbalances and limitations are and what kind of exercises you can do to improve them.” Image: TE3
By: Eeva Haaramo