Ivonna Dumanyan BioMetrix Duke University & Sensor

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Update: An Indiegogo campaign went live yesterday to help bring BioMetrix's athlete monitoring sensor to market in 2016. The founders are bootstrapping the initial product development but will use the $10K or more they hope to raise crowdfunding to polish the technology and user experience. 

Here's their video, but read the full story (originally published July 15, 2015) below for context of the founding story and product's initial development.

BioMetrix launched a $10,000 Indiegogo campaign on January 17, 2016. Founders Ivonna Dumanyan and Gabrielle Levac have the goal to bring their athlete monitoring wearable device to market this year. Credit: BioMetrix

Before arriving at Duke University, Ivonna Dumanyan knew she wanted to be two things—an athlete and an engineer.

Now a rising senior, Dumanyan, pictured above, has added another word to that list: entrepreneur. As the co-founder of 
BioMetrix, a sports technology company, Dumanyan has entered the quickly-growing global wearables movement, which is set to cross $11.61 billion in revenue by 2020 and $70 billion by 2025.

The way she’s combined her interests into marketable action has earned her a spot in Business Insider’s top Duke students to watch along with the local ThinkHouse program for 2015-2016. But behind all the numbers and accolades, Dumanyan has a captivating story to tell.

“I had been running my whole life. For me, running was something I did out of necessity,” Dumanyan explains. After her family immigrated from Ukraine to southern New Jersey when she was five years old, Dumanyan was faced with years of hardship and poverty. Running was her refuge from the surrounding environment and kept her motivated to stay above the water.

In high school, Dumanyan joined a construction company, where she also fell in love with the idea of building things. This interest lead her to the gates of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, which granted her full financial aid to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

Apart from her demanding classes, she joined the crew team to stay in touch with her passion for exercise through sports. A year into her education, however, Dumanyan began suffering from a long string of strains, sprains and injuries, which led her to seek the help of athletic trainers.

It was in the training room that Dumanyan crossed paths with another student-athlete at Duke two years her senior, Gabrielle Levac. Levac, a statistics major and member of the track team, was training as a NCAA All-American cross country runner and had goals of competing professionally or even in the Olympics. But those dreams were shattered when a labral tear forced her to make a difficult decision— - give up her life’s passion and a successful running career or suffer the pain of injury, surgery and recovery, only to risk her long-term mobility.

“Gabby went from being able to run a four-something minute mile, to not walking for six months,” Dumanyan says.

Gabby Levac Duke University BioMetrix
Gabrielle Levac is a co-founder of BioMetrix, a wearable technology startup founded at Duke University.

The two quickly became friends and bonded over their similar situations. Late night conversations led to a clarifying revelation: Their injuries could have been avoided.

They realized that, had their performance been more closely monitored while they were in action, they could have improved small flaws in form before they compounded into strains and tears.

In late August of last year, they began exploring the potential for a solution.

The Birth of BioMetrix

After reading over 70 scientific journals on stride and gait, Dumanyan and Levac identified the critical metrics involved. Pronation, for example, is a measure of inward or outward roll of the foot during walking or running and can lead to certain problems. If runners consistently track this metric during practice, they would know right away if they were moving in ways that were potentially harmful and adjust accordingly.

The two came up with the idea of a wearable device that athletes could place on the back of their heel and small of their back, and use to track vital measurements like pronation, hip drop, and stride length. Unlike personal trainers who help you occasionally analyze your form from the training room, this device could be worn at all times, including during training or a race.

The only problem was that they weren’t exactly sure how to physically build such a device since neither had previous experience in electrical or computer engineering.

But they didn’t give up. Dumanyan joined a fellowship program at the Smart Home, a residential community at Duke for engineers to develop and design products for academic credit. She also sought help at the Innovation Co-Lab, where experts provided technical assistance and prototyping resources. Through these programs, along with advice and guidance from professors, Dumanyan learned the basic electronics needed to turn some gyroscope and accelerometer chips into the device they envisioned (watch some early testings here).

By March, Dumanyan and Levac had their first prototype and a name for the business they were building around it—BioMetrix.

Where Are They Now?

Now, the pair are about to begin piloting the technology with a group of Duke athletes and analyzing the field data for common trends. They’ve also partnered with Global Technology Investments, a company of international correspondents in the US, Hong Kong and India that invests in promising tech companies and lends their services in areas including business development, manufacturing, and software development. As a part of the partnership, BioMetrix receives access to GTI’s sales and accounting expertise, while also getting the critical assistance in engineering the device more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Beyond the interactive app interface that they are building to connect to the device, they are also exploring other possibilities, such as a live coaching and personalized warnings that can be set by athletes and trainers.

This past month, BioMetrix has secured a partnership with Motion Analysis Corporation, the leading company in motion capture for 3D passive optical motion capture systems. By integrating its sensor solution into Motion Analysis’s platform, BioMetrix will be able to expand its offerings to not just a handful, but all metrics of an athlete’s form.

The team plans to raise money by launching a Kickstarter campaign by the end of the year. Perks for contributors will range from a sweat wicking T-shirt, to the device itself, to a personalized app widget and even personal coaching sessions with some of BioMetrix's pro-athlete supporters.

A leader in the field of biomechanics research has called BioMetrix’s technology “at least four orders of magnitude ahead of anything currently available.”
Dumanyan is excited about what this could mean for runners. 

"It's not going to be a mystery anymore,” she says, “with this device you can actually see when and where abnormalities creep into your form, put a number to them, and actively work to correct them. The power that injury strips away can be back in your hands."

Dumanyan and Levac may not become the competitive athletes they dreamed of becoming. Instead of giving up on their passions, however, they’ve found a promising way to help fellow athletes race to the finish line for years to come.