Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – Wearable athletic performance-analysis technology developed by a Cornell University engineering startup has won the sixth annual NFL 1st & Future competition, sponsored by the National Football League.

Light Lace technology uses light to measure muscle fatigue and respiration. This stretchable sensor can be integrated into garments or even helmets; the information generated can help athletes and training staff better assess injury risk factors and optimize performance.

Light Lace is a product of Organic Robotics Corporation (ORC), founded by Cornell alum Ilayda Samilgil and Rob Shepherd, associate professor of engineering. ORC topped the field of four finalists to win the competition and the $50,000 grand prize.

The finals were televised Feb. 2 on the NFL Network, during the runup to the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 in Tampa.

Shepherd’s lab has been developing this technology for six years, for an array of other applications: pressure monitoring for diabetes patients, monitoring in-vehicle passenger behavior, improving AR/VR training, and giving robots a sense of touch, among others.

When host Colleen Wolfe announced the results Tuesday night on the prerecorded telecast, Shepherd and Samilgil – who gave their presentation at Cornell Broadcast Studio – were overjoyed and clinked their coffee mugs together in celebration.

“From the beginning, I was confident in our pitch and our technology, but it was a great feeling to hear the results coming from such an expert group of judges,” said Samilgil, who submitted the application for the competition. “It’s a great validation to have at an early stage, and we are now even more motivated to help athletes improve their performance and prevent injuries.”

Samilgil said ORC will put its winnings back into the company, “to employ a great team and start pilot testing our wearable solution.”

ORC, which was founded in 2018, has gotten support from the Praxis Center and the Center for Technology Licensing, both on the Ithaca campus, and from the National Science Foundation’s Upstate New York I-Corps Node.

For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.