Chuck Katis came to the New River Valley to train for the 2020 Olympics, but while he was doing that, he has also developed a futuristic training tool that will not only to help himself but will help other athletes as well.
Swimming continues to be important to him, he said recently, but the new venture called “Bodbx”, an artificial intelligence training training robot, is taking up a lot of his attention.
“I spend a lot of the time in the water (3-5 hours a day) and the gym, and I knew I needed to find something that could help me with my training.”
Unable to find exactly what he was looking for, he decided to create his own.
Katis describes Bodbx SZN2 as being similar to the device consumers are using with Alexis and Siri. “You can sit it down and the tracking device will follow all your movements, via a special training shirt, as you work out. When completed, you then go back and look at your workout, then consider what needs to be corrected to gain more from it,” he said.
“This project will change the training world as we know it, and breaking down the walls of the gym with robots,” he said.
After a 2016 Olympic run, Katis was looking to apply other training sets to help himself and others. “This will provide feedback just like coach. It will not replace the individual, instead it will help to analysis everything being done,” he said.
Katis conducted a Kickstarter campaign, did marketing and built a concept. He has been working with a major network developer, condensing the version to what it is today.
“Any athlete, not just swimmers, will be able to use it,” he said.
With a firm understanding of software code and business (he was interrupted several times during a recent interview by the buzz of his phone as developers kept giving him updates), he feels comfortable about what will hit the market and a West Coast gym has already agreed to use the product for its patrons, and Katis expects lot more to follow. “I am excited about what is about to happen,” he said.
Katis and a dozen other national and international competitors followed Sergio Lopez to Christiansburg when Lopez was named the new swim coach at Virginia Tech. Katis came to the Christiansburg Aquatics Center after a brief stint at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
“This is a great place to train. The people here have shown me what it means to work for what you want. In my case being here has helped me to develop the Bodbx,” he said.
The swimmer sings the praises of Lopez and his coaching staff, saying they have helped in the next chapter of his life, which he hopes is another Olympic trial and maybe a trip to Tokyo in 2020.
But in the meantime, he has something to fall back on.
Katis grew up in Northern Virginia and knew about Blacksburg as the home of Virginia Tech. He swam collegiately first at Harvard and then at the University of California Berkley, setting several national records and making a name for himself in the pool.
At Harvard, he became the school record holder in the 100 and 200 breast stroke, and after transferring to Cal-Berkley, he helped the school to two NCAA championships and wins in the 200- and 400-medley relay events. He recently finished first in the 100-breast event at Eastern Zone Region Sectional meet held in Christiansburg.
Katis knew robotics and artificial intelligence was slowly changing the way athletes train – there were the wearable devices everyone had started to use, but he desired something more. That’s where Bodbx came into fruition.
“I just wanted something that could track your heart rate, body temperature and rate of respiration, while providing feedback on each workout,” he said.
The economics major started this project as a cardboard box with a laptop in it, sitting across the room as he worked out. “I am excited about what we are about to launch to the market. Bodbx is something every athlete can use and learn from,” Katis said.
This entrepreneur spirit is nothing new for the swimmer as he has been pushing the envelope for a number of years.
In 2009, Katis started a non-profit called “Magic of Miracle,” which brought together a network of magicians that would drop by hospitals and homeless shelters to perform magic tricks.
He also conducted the sale of specialty coffee that featured Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in an election inspired effort called “Caffeine 2016.” A total of 100 bags were sold.
It was a background in magic that kept him working to make the prototype smaller.
Katis has fallen in love with the Christiansburg area, and he would love to make a future investment right here where he has been training. “This feels like home, and no matter where I might put the BODbx in full production, I would like to keep some type of company connection here in the NRV.”
His application and physical training device will officially be unveiled Monday in California.