Practice only makes perfect if you know what perfect looks like. A successful free throw, for example, requires a precise arc, spin and release point, and until now, only a good coach could really spot what was off about a shot.
InfoMotion Sports Technologies has teamed with University of Michigan researchers to create a smart ball that assesses shooting skills and ball-handling mechanics. Their five-gram circuit board affixes to the inside of a basketball without altering its flight or bounce. Players run through dribbling or shooting drills while the board gathers data from its accelerometers and gyroscopes. The device wirelessly transmits the data to a computer, which produces a breakdown of each shot and analyzes your performance. This way, you know what you need to work on—say, your right hand needs more dribbling and handling practice than your left.
The system is already being used in youth leagues, as well as at five top-20 college basketball programs. Researchers are licensing the chip to make other sporting goods smart, too. A soccer ball will roll out next year, AboutGolf’s club add-on will generate stroke analysis, and baseball-bat makers are looking to break down swing mechanics.
In related news, this season, 10 NBA and NHL teams are revving up their fans with CrowdWave, a large-scale motion-tracking system. Eight high-def cameras on the scoreboard or the rafters feed live images of the stands into software that translates waving into actions. By waving in a prescribed direction, the crowd can answer trivia questions, choose what song plays next, or play interactive games such as Dance Dance Revolution. Pro football and baseball teams will also give it a shot later this year.