The NFL and Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS) announced the finalists and judges for 1st and Future, a competition designed to spur advancements in athlete safety and performance. The NFL’s sixth annual competition will air on Feb. 2, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network in the lead up to Super Bowl LV.

The 90-minute show will feature two competitive categories:

  • The Innovations to Advance Player Health and Safety Competition will feature four start-ups pitching their innovative products designed to improve player health and safety. The winners will be awarded $50,000 with the runner-up receiving $25,000.
  • The NFL Computer Vision Competition winners will also be unveiled during the program. The NFL provided computer scientists with actual game data and challenged them to create ways to detect on-field helmet impacts. After receiving nearly 7,800 submissions from 55 countries, the top five data analysts' models will be showcased, and each will be awarded prizes up to $25,000. Successful computer vision models of helmet contacts may lead to rule changes, teaching tools and even future helmet designs. The use of computer vision and machine learning is a major component of the collaboration between the NFL and AWS in their development of the Digital Athlete, a virtual representation of an NFL player that can be used to better predict and prevent player injury.

While an expert panel of judges deliberate on the competition, the program will be hosted on NFL Network with Commissioner Roger Goodell, Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS, and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald all joining to discuss how the use of data and innovative technologies are driving new insights into player health, safety and performance in the NFL.

The finalists in the Innovations category have provided the following descriptions of the technology they will pitch during the 1st and Future program:

Genesis Helmets, Inc. – Keystone Heights, Florida 

Genesis Helmets is using its computational model of the seven soft tissues that comprise the human brain, plus design and manufacturing technologies from Mississippi State University, Florida State University and Auxadyne, LLC, with the goal of developing a better-performing football helmet focused on the brain rather than the skull.

Nix, Inc. – Boston, Massachusetts 

Nix's proprietary biosensor platform generates real-time data on sweat rate and electrolyte losses so athletes can maintain proper hydration during activity – and thereby optimize safety and performance.

Organic Robotics Corporation (ORC) – Ithaca, New York

ORC's unique Light Lace™ sensors use light to measure muscle fatigue and respiration. This stretchable sensor can be integrated into garments or even helmets, and the information generated can help athletes and training staff better assess injury risk factors and optimize performance.

GO² Devices / PEEP Performance, LLC – Houston, Texas 

PEEP Performance's GO² device is a patented breathing device that increases the user's blood oxygen levels while providing the protection of a traditional mouth guard. Version 2 of the device is currently in development and will enable the device to capture data from every breath, analyze that data and give real time feedback on the physiological metrics of an athlete to optimize their performance. 

The panel of judges will feature:

  • Priya Ponnapalli, Ph.D., Senior Manager and Principal Scientist, Amazon Machine Learning Solutions Lab
  • Reggie Scott, Vice President, Sports Medicine and Performance, Los Angeles Rams
  • Allen Sills, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, National Football League
  • Gary Vaynerchuk, Chairman, VaynerX, CEO, VaynerMedia, Co-Founder, Resy and Empathy Wines​
  • DeMarcus Ware, 9-time Pro Bowl NFL Player, Super Bowl Champion, Founder of Driven To Win and 3VOLT Fitness

The 1st and Future competition is powered by AWS. Within the first five years of the competition’s inception, innovators and data scientists have been awarded a combined total of $750,000 for their winning pitches. Former winning innovations will be featured throughout the show, many of which are now used in the NFL, such as Mobile Virtual Player (MVP)'s robotic tackle dummy and Protect3d's custom protective devices.

Visit 1st and Future for more information.