Computer science PhD student and pro squash player Cameron Seth sparks entrepreneurship with SethSquash platform

Monday, November 8, 2021

As a graduate student in the Cheriton School of Computer Science, Cameron Seth studies graph theory algorithms and complexity theory. As an athlete, he is among the top Canadian men’s squash players. He has been playing on the international professional tour since 2015, and during his undergrad, Cameron was a mainstay on the University of Waterloo varsity team.

He won the OUA individual title numerous times and led the squad to a few second-place finishes in the team event, losing to rivals Western.
 
Now, he’s found a way to marry his passions of computer science and squash in a new venture launching as part of the Concept $5K challenge, the bi-annual entrepreneurial contest hosted by the Waterloo-affiliated Velocity startup incubator.

The new platform is called SethSquash.

“One of the reasons I started this was because of the pandemic,” Cameron said. “When everything shut down, I had to find ways to train without having a squash court. I did fitness work on bikes and running, but what was lacking was a way to improve squash skills without getting on court.”

An essential aspect of squash is the ability to “read” the game. By watching an opponent’s body language and movement, a player can anticipate the next shot and take advantage. Players intentionally disguise their shots and use deception to confuse any straightforward reading of the game.

“The tough thing about learning to read the game is that it’s not like practicing hitting the ball,” he said. “I can go on court and hit the ball for hours to improve my shots, but there’s no repeatable way to practice reading the game.”

“So our trainer has thousands of clips from just one position. You can play the clips within our app to improve your read of where the shot is going. You can get a thousand repetitions in an hour, whereas if you’re playing a match, you might only get ten repetitions of that shot placement.”

The SethSquash platform also has a functionality that uses a machine learning algorithm to track player statistics and analyze the game. Squash is a fast-paced sport, and it has proven difficult to track statistics using computer programs. Cameron and his team developed heuristic models to track the shots and movement patterns of players accurately.

photo of Cameron Seth playing squash

Cameron Seth (front) in action on the glass court at Canadian nationals 2021, hosted in the Yorkdale Mall. Cameron made it to the quarter-finals before losing out to the number one seed.

“It requires a little bit of manual input at the beginning,” Cameron said. “You have to tell it, this is player one, this is player two. This is their shirt colour. And then it just runs. The program runs so fast that we can essentially get the statistics in real-time.”

The team working to develop the SethSquash platform started with Cameron and his brother Ravi, who recently completed an undergraduate degree in mechatronics engineering. As the project grew, they were joined by their sister Natasha, who completed Waterloo’s math business program. And the Waterloo-SethSquash connection doesn’t stop there.

“We’ve been a squash family. I also have two other siblings, along with Ravi and Natasha, who are also squash players. My sister Marisa is, in fact, the University of Waterloo varsity coach. My sister Micaala played for the varsity team. And my parents also went to the university. So in our family, it’s all seven of us playing squash and Waterloo graduates. Squash and the University of Waterloo, it’s a part of who we are.”

As for the next steps, Cameron says he’s most interested in getting some feedback on the business side of the new venture and some experience pitching the idea through the Concept $5K challenge. He also points to recent leads for potential future partnerships with squash organizations in Canada and the US.

The match analysis software is set to be tested at the upcoming Squash Ontario Junior Championships. The University of Pennsylvania has expressed interest in using the platform as a training tool for their varsity squash program. 

“It’s a sport that’s set to grow, and we see some great potential to bring our tech skills to this beautiful game.”

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