The University of Arizona's Educational Interpreting Program teaches students to become interpret
UA Race Track Industry Program
Merging their interests in professional horse racing with entrepreneurship and engineering, UA students David P. Matt and Kenleigh Hobby have launched EquiSight – a helmet camera system for jockeys – and are promoting it in Virginia this week.
There is something invigorating about watching a NASCAR race through a camera inside the driver's cockpit or being able to view a heart-pounding football match from a player's helmet.
But David P. Matt and Kenleigh Hobby, both seniors in the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program, said horse racing fans are not yet able to have a first-person, on-the-ground perspective of actual racing.
The two – both UA animal sciences majors with minors in business management – are bent on changing that, and it all began with a senior capstone project.
Hobby and Matt have since connected with engineering students at the UA to help develop a prototype for EquiSight, a helmet camera system being designed specifically for horse jockeys.
"We both share a passion for this sport, and we're the yin and yang – we've both been able to work very well and put our talents together," Hobby said. "Horse racing is a beautiful, magnificent sport that is not very well supported by technology."
Their system, which is slated to be presented during UA's Engineering Design Day in May 2012, would enable tracks to broadcast the races live online and over their simulcast signals and, eventually, maybe in 3D.
The students' project also will be presented at the 38th annual Racing and Gaming Symposium in December, held in Tucson.
"We're showing multiple perspectives, not just one dimension," said Matt, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal nations, whose father and grandfather were jockeys.
"Our tag line is 'Ride the Race,'" he added. "We want to allow you to have that video game mentality where you can be put in the middle of the race."
To promote their product, he and Hobby have aligned with UA alumni, tracks and trainers in the industry and also have launched their business, also called EquiSight, via the UA-sponsored Arizona Center for Innovation, an incubator to help get the industry out of the "binocular phase."
The two also are designing and developing websites for equestrian-focused companies and have landed their first contract with Pari-Mutuel Inc., a nonprofit organization that promotes horse racing.
This week, Matt and Hobby are in Virginia, under a sponsorship from Virginia Derby, where they are pitching their idea and providing a demo at Colonial Downs. They also will visit several other tracks in New Jersey and Delaware later in the week to make additional connections with potential industry partners.
In other sporting industries – professional football, baseball, tennis and auto racing – incorporating technology such as instant reply and hawk-eye view enhances the experience for viewers, and the UA duo wants to see the same for horse racing.
"The idea culminates from video games and being able to interact online and Google Earth – having technology at our fingertips, we identified a gap in horse racing technology," said Hobby, who has previously initiated startup companies in the areas of snowboarding and scuba diving.
At two-months-old, EquiSight already has a website and has acquired two major sponsorships. Also, Matt and Hobby recently filed for a provisional patent for the system.
"We're really grateful to be able to make as many steps as we have," Hobby said, noting that he at Matt are especially thankful for the support of family members and UA alumni already in the industry.
"It’s been a few big baby steps," he added. "We’ve opened a lot of doors, and doors have opened back to us."
UA Race Track Industry Program