News - 02 February 2015

Innovator on track to help people achieve sporting success with smart headphones

A squash player turned innovator has developed smart headphones that can be used as a motivational training aid for sport.

Branded FX-SPORT, the VR1 headphones are the product of a nine year journey of research, testing and re-design by Duncan Walsh of Nottingham with the help of patent attorneys Swindell & Pearson of Derby to secure his intellectual property rights.

The headphones have already been used by some top athletes and Duncan now hopes to take them to sporting organisations for them to try out as well as selling them through retailers.

Duncan played squash professionally for nearly 20 years and won the British Open Over 40 championships in 2006. When training he listened to music using a CD player with wires going through his T-shirt to his ears.  

But this was impractical and caused problems when sweating. Duncan thought there must be a better way. He did some research and went to a trade show in Hong Kong in 2006 where he saw a Chinese product of headphones with a built-in MP3 player.

Duncan made some improvements and linked up with a Chinese manufacturer but they could not keep up with demand because the product was slow to manufacture. He then went back to the drawing board and the product was redesigned to produce a third version with a combination of uses.

The headphones incorporate an MP3 player with users being able to put on their own selected music.

The second aspect is a programmable trainer. Users can use software to send pre-written messages that cut into music at intervals to tell the wearer to do certain exercises; they can upload prepared workouts for running, circuit training, using an exercise bike, weightlifting and other scenarios; or they can have coaching apps which are like a one-to-one experience with a top personal trainer.

Thirdly, with a simple accessory they can be used while swimming.

In addition to Swindell & Pearson Duncan has been helped by two Nottingham companies – Coriel Electronics of Nottingham who designed the electronics and software and SMS Electronics of Beeston which make the electronics board. The headphones are assembled in China.

The first batch of the latest VR1 model is now being produced.

Duncan has already attracted interest from athletes and top sports coaches. “This training aid is not just for elite sports people,” he said. “Buyers can be from beginners upwards.”

Robert Sales, an intellectual property director with Swindell & Pearson, based in Friar Gate, said: “I am pleased we have been able to obtain patent protection for this innovative product that helps people with their sporting achievements.

“We have worked with Duncan on the VR1 for five years and continue to work with him, to protect his hard work and inspiration by obtaining appropriate intellectual rights to cover his inventions and developments.”

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