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Make any dumb heavy bag smart with the Impact Wrap

If you’re not using smart gym gear, your workout may be missing something. Up on Kickstarter right now is a new piece of smart gear for boxers and martial artists: Impact Wrap. It can turn any heavy bag from dumb into genius.

Impact Wrap looks like a crazy case for the kind of pillows you’d expect to find on a pop-art couch. It’s a canvas sleeve that fits over regular (read: not smart) heavy bags between 12 and 18 inches in diameter. A vertical “Velcro-like” fastener keeps it tight through the expected beatings.

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Now, folks familiar with sensors know that they don’t come cheap, so embedding a whole bunch of them would drive the price of the Impact Wrap out of reach for a lot of people. Further, if users were actually hitting the sensors they would inevitably wear out.

Instead, the Impact Wrap team figured out how to calculate the force inflicted on the heavy bag based on the movement of its material, and they situated the sensors on the straps (out of harm’s way). The algorithm that discerns noise — like the bag moving — from actual strikes is a company secret, but the team demoed Impact Wrap at SXSW (South by Southwest) in March and people were impressed.

With Kickstarter backing, the team will be able to display metrics on a small touch screen (with a physical button for gloved hands) at the top of the sleeve, as well as on the app that’s still in development. Funding will determine the size and resolution of the screen, so if you want it big and beautiful, get out your wallet.

impact wrap, smart boxing, smart heavy bag

The team is at work finalizing the free iOS or Android app. If all goes as planned, users will be able to find out the force behind each hit, no matter where it lands. If you don’t want to fuss with an app in boxing gloves, or don’t have a Bluetooth device, the display will come in handy.

The app gives you the benefit of tracking your progress over time using a series of metrics. Impact Force, for instance, measures how hard you hit, while Impact Count is your number of hits. Overall, you’ll earn an Impact Rank, and this can be either individual or as a group if you train with a team or you’re a trainer yourself with a bunch of clients going up against another trainer and his or her clients.

The app also covers the basics, like calculating the calories you burned on the heavy bag and spreading the word of your triumphs on Facebook and Twitter. There’s also the option to schedule your next workout.

impact wrap, smart boxing, smart heavy bag

Since Impact Wrap is easily portable — in a way that a whole heavy bag is not — it seems like a great investment for boxing trainers who work in more than one gym and, by extension, with more than one heavy bag.

Smartening up your bag gives you or your trainer another way to measure improvement and determine what needs work. The app will allow for comparisons between users, so you can compete against “friends, foes, and pros,” as long as they have the same weight heavy bag.

Impact Wrap has two partners for the beta program so far: Boxfit Palm Beach and Rocco MMA. They are helping to hone the training and competition aspects of the app. For now, other gyms, schools, or organizations have to be approved by Impact Wrap before they can create or join a league. Part of the $112,000 requested in the Kickstarter campaign will go toward finalizing that feature of the application, at which point registration will open up, and organizations can invite individuals to join without approval from Impact Wrap.

The other smart gear options to read intentional impacts in boxing and MMA come in several not-as-attractive types: The heavy bag replacements or impact readers are weird, large, expensive contraptions that don’t allow for full training freedom, since impact pads are employed as opposed to a full round surface.

Smart heavy bags do exist, but they’re obviously well, heavy, which translates to expensive shipping, and they’re a non-option if you’re not using it in a private space. (Who’s up for donating a heavy bag to the gym? Anyone?)

Lastly, there are smart gloves, but like any clothes, you should really try them on before you buy, or you’ll risk finding out later that they’re uncomfortable or otherwise annoying. Trainers wouldn’t get as much use out of them either, since clients’ hands aren’t all the same size, and people may not like using gloves lined with someone else’s sweat. That’s besides the fact that MMA training focuses on using knees, shins, feet, and elbows as well as closed fists; gloves, in that case, are little help.

Based on the thorough Kickstarter page and the pride of workmanship shown by their hand-painted prototype bags, there’s some real passion being put into the Impact Wrap. Super early-bird backers who spend at least $189 can grab an Impact Wrap and save $60 over the people who hop on the bandwagon after this makes it to market.