In 1999, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) approached the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC), a scientific research organisation creating technologies like the black box found in airplanes and the cochlea ear implant, to engineer microtechnology that could quantify athlete movement.
The AIS had been measuring performance for years already, but all testing was done in laboratories in controlled conditions where athletes inherently perform differently to when exposed to competition. To take this analysis out of the lab and onto the field, wearable technology for elite team athletes would have to be deployed for the first time.
Catapult’s eventual co-founders, Shaun Holthouse and Igor van de Griendt, led a team that combined the sports science knowledge of the AIS and the engineering prowess of the CRC, resulting in technology that was used exclusively by the Australian Olympic team between 1999 and 2006 - including the country’s two most successful Olympic Games in 2000 and 2004.
The original device wasn’t worn by the athlete at all, but rather a rowing boat to measure the roll (rotation around the front-to-back axis), pitch (rotation around the side-to-side axis), and yaw (rotation around the vertical axis). As the size of the device quickly shrunk, it was soon placed on the thoracic region of the spine in order to capture the best GPS signal and be the safest placement for the athlete.
After obtaining all of the patents for the technology, Catapult commercialised the product in late 2006 and released the minimaXx device to local Australian football teams that were already manually tracing player distances run during matches.
From the original device, which was purely a GPS tracker, the technology decreased in size, added inertial sensors (accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers) and heart rate connectivity, and rapidly gained microprocessor power to calculate sophisticated sport-specific algorithms.