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USFL Used MIT-Developed, AI-Powered Perch Weight Room Technology for Training, Injury Prevention

By

Tom Friend


The fledgling USFL credits Perch, an AI-powered weight rack, for helping its players train more safely and efficiently during its past inaugural spring season.

Developed by three former MIT students, Perch combines a compact 3D camera with machine learning to produce a foot-long device that calculates a weightlifter’s sets, reps, velocity and power output. The product—consisting of a battery pack and a smart tablet—can be attached via Velcro to any weight rack, and, once the user logs on to the tablet, the 3D technology can provide the athlete and their coaches with workout data via a mobile phone or the web.

Before this past season, the tech-conscious USFL first installed Perch on seven weight racks inside its core training facility at the Birmingham (Ala.) Jefferson Convention Complex. All 400 player from the league’s eight teams congregated there and, through the AI, were monitored performing deadlifts, squats, bench press and power cleans, among others. Each players’ data was then stored and evaluated to help them plan future workouts that ideally help them stay healthy and more powerful.

Perch has been adopted by an expanding number of teams and leagues, including the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers from the NFL, the Orlando Magic from the NBA, the Philadelphia Phillies from MLB and LSU football and Kentucky men’s basketball from the SEC. The smart weight rack is also being utilized at military bases, high school weight rooms and fitness centers.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of smart weightlifting products and gyms have escalated as athletes return to gym environments. The Techstars sports accelerator out of Indianapolis has mentored EvenLift, which is based on AI technology similar to Perch, and RepOne, which inserts sensors inside weights. Dak Prescott is backing the smart home gym OxeFit, and former NFL star Vernon Davis has invested in the another smart home product JAXJOX.

Health and Fitness