Design Engineering

Canadian Olympic boxers training with help of UofT punch tracker


General product design sensors

A wrist-mounted device, created by U of T Engineering alumnus Khalil Zahar, tracks fighters' punches, measuring both speed and intensity.

The 2016 Olympics kicked off on August 5, 2016. Thousands of athletes from all over the globe landed in Rio de Janeiro ready to put their skills to the test on the international stage. However, the Canadian and America Olympic boxing teams believe they have an advantage.

Hykso Boxing sensor UofT Zahar

Combining motion tracking and machine-learning technology, the device then calculates the speed and type of punch thrown. (Courtesy: Hykso)

The teams have been training using wearable technology developed by a University of Toronto Engineering alumnus. Khalil Zahar (MechE MASc 1T4) created a wrist-mounted device with sensors that track each punch, measuring both speed and intensity.

The device includes a small sensor that uses accelerometers and gyroscopes to gather data about hand movements, taking samples 1,000 times per second. Combining motion tracking and machine-learning technology, the device then calculates, in real-time, the speed of the punch, and even recognizes the type of punch thrown.

“I started boxing during my first year at U of T and I just fell in love with it,” says Zahar, who wanted to improve his skills. However, he soon noticed there were few tools available to help him.


Traditionally, boxing coaches measure the number of punches thrown by simply counting them, sometimes with the help of a hand-held mechanical clicker. “That method is subject to human error,” says Zahar. “Plus, you can’t log much other information.”

Zahar began experimenting with off-the-shelf components with the goal of collecting more detailed information about each punch thrown. “With our device, you can differentiate each punch,” he says. “You can dig deeper into the data so that you can improve as a boxer, and you can measure endurance in real-time in order to change your regimen as you go. It can even help in pinpointing an injury.”

Zahar knew that the only way he could make his vision a reality was to create his own company. In 2013, Hykso was launched in California.

For Zahar, engineering provided a valuable foundation for success in the fast-paced startup world. “My engineering background helped me in a lot of ways. To create this device, I had to explore and validate my hypothesis, and iterate my assumptions, just as I would in research – it’s very scientific, actually,” he says.

Zahar believes that the sky is the limit for this device and hopes to expand it use into other sports.

“I want to change the way people train in sports,” he says.

In the meantime, he’ll be watching as the Canadian and American boxing teams use his devices to go for the knockout at the 2016 Summer Olympics.


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