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Smart Racquets Could Transform Tennis 64

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "L. J. Rick reports at BBC that Babolat has released a tennis racket with gyroscopes, accelerometers, and a piezoelectric sensor in the handle that can assess your every shot, sensing where the ball strikes the racquet and the quality of the contact. ... The sensor can gather data such as ball speed, accuracy, and angle, and will pair the info with devices over Bluetooth or USB. 'We integrated sensors inside the handle of the racquet, but it does not change the specification. And these sensors will analyze your tennis game, so your swing — your motion — and all this information will be collected by the racquet,' says Gael Moureaux. The International Tennis Federation, aware of the growing influx of hi-tech equipment into the sport, has set up a program called Player Analysis Technology (PAT) to regulate such 'virtual coaches' as the Babolat racquet. The governing body wants to be calling the shots on where and how innovation can be used, as in the past it has found itself having to ban some products like the so-called 'spaghetti-strung' racquets (with double stringing that are already on the market and in use. In conjunction with its PAT approval program, the ITF has also brought in a new rule — Rule 31 — to reflect the growing use of connected equipment, and its possible role in tournament play. Approved devices need to be secure and protected against unauthorized access, to prevent 'sporting espionage' whereby data could be stolen. Knowing when an opponent's right hand gets tired during the second set would be a huge advantage. Despite the innovations, one trainer does not think he is in danger of being upstaged by a smart racquet. 'I think that it's great for feedback but you still need someone to analyze it,' says tennis coach says Nik Snapes. 'At the end of the day it's the practice and the ability of someone that makes the player, not necessarily the equipment in their hand.'"
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Smart Racquets Could Transform Tennis

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  • easier solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @04:19AM (#46089083)

    Just put a robot on either side of the fence and let them hit shots backwards and forwards with 100% accuracy. Then try and work out where the audience disappears to.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just put a robot on either side of the fence and let them hit shots backwards and forwards with 100% accuracy. Then try and work out where the audience disappears to.

      Just make sure the robots grunt loudly every time they hit the ball. Some of those tennis scream queens can hit over a hundred decibels.

    • But if only robots are playing, all that collected data will be useless to the NSA...

  • So this is basically Smartlink [wikia.com], but for tennis.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The reporter is called LJ Rich not LJ Rick :-)

  • > the ITF has also brought in a new rule — Rule 31
    Only 3 to go...

    • I think they'll probably skip rule 34 like some hotels skip room 13.

      Otherwise there would be too much confusion as rule 34 already exists and, unsurprisingly, indeed applies to tennis racquets.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @05:46AM (#46089301) Homepage

    Get rid of ALL electronic aids. Any technology should be purely materials though I'd be tempted to limit those too. I know money talks but it would be nice if just occasionally the people running various sporting bodies remembered that its supposed to be about man (or woman) against man.

    • If you want to ban this, then you may as well also ban coaches and training. This is not an electronic aid that directly alters performance, it is a tool for analysis of performance.

      • It wasn't clear to me if they wanted to ban them outright, or just ban them during competitive play. Banning them outright seems ludicrous. It would be similar to outlawing power-meters for cyclists. I mean, you could probably collect similar data using some high speed cameras, and computer tracking software. Although this would probably be a much more complex method of getting at the same data.
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      Are you really suggesting that we should ban the use of radios, navigation aids and safety things in long-duration yacht racing (e.g. Sydney to Hobart)? Or that we ban electronics in F1 cars and go back to the days when the cars had to be started with a hand-crank?
      Although your point about materials makes sense in light of the whole furor over those special bodysuits they had in swimming for a while.

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        I'm talking about real sports , not rich boys niche activities. But obviously if machinery is required then that changes things.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Navigation aids would make things interesting. Dead reckoning and celestial navigation both give results that improve a lot with skill. Everybody could have a GPS on board in a tamper proof container that they can crack open if they get in trouble, but it forfeits the race.

        • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

          I have this concept of GPS in every boat, coupled with rudder angle sensors, boom angle sensors, wind angle sensors and digital compasses all coupled with GPS in the buoys and a radio network sending all this information back to a central computer and you could implement a "HawkeEye" for sailing. Some indicator lights on the boat to indicate that you have received a penalty and you could cut out all the appeals and other crap.

          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            Sure, for officiating, why not? Like using cameras for refereeing.

            But if you've got all those sensors, some actuators to go along with them, and no rules to prevent it, you could just let that central computer run the whole boat. No need for a crew. Best code wins.

            Or go the other way. No GPS available to the crew, no weather reports or satellite imagery (except for emergency messages everyone gets), etc. Winner is the one who read the weather, navigated, and sailed the best.

    • In HS swimming, Coaches can use smart phones to record split times and share them with other coaches, but swimmers can't have timers embedded in their goggles to help them check their pace during a race. Learning aids are OK be competition aids are not. Probably this new technology could be used in a like manner.
      • On the flip side, cyclists use speedometers (and more advanced performance tracking) during competition. Marathon runners most certainly use at least a wrist watch to track their progress, if not using something more advanced. It becomes more important in longer events to tack your time.
    • Yes, it did wonders for Formula 1. From most popular motor sport to boring snorefest nobody watches in ~15 years.

      • I've got one simple rule to make F1 fun again:
          - Start grid is reverse of championship order (random for ties)

        Because what's boring is that the guy with the best car starts first, leads the whole way, and wins, and the second fastest car starts second, follows, and gets on the podium.
        Make them fight for every spot! I'll watch!

        • Cant do that, passing is sooo dangerous, just as changing tires and fueling is. Corners are also dangerous, but we cant figure out a way to get rid of them (yet).

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        It was just as boring 15 years ago WITH all the electronics. The best era was the 60s and 70s when the only electronics was in the main clock.

        • F1 got castrated after Senna died, it was gradually getting worse and worse, I finally stopped watching 5 years ago.

  • "At the end of the day it's the practice and the ability of someone that makes the player, not necessarily the equipment in their hand.'"

    Oh yeah - your mom said that.
  • by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @08:07AM (#46089699)
    This is great news for amateur players who can't afford to hire a personal coach.
    • I actually already know I suck, so I don't need my racket to tell me this also. Can't a guy catch a break?

      Disclaimer: I don't play tennis really. (But if I did... )

  • Min-Maxing like this is destroying our society. Sure, you can spend time straining data to improve your tennis game. But you will either do one of two things:

    1) Develop a significant improvement, whihc then forces all other players to jump on the bandwagon of diminishing returns technological statistics to stay competative, driving up the costs and time involved in playing the game or
    2) Fail to develop any significant improvement, in which case everyone will still chase these developments but the time and money spent will simply be a complete waste of everyone's time verses mostly being a waste.

    In either case, you will certainly have:

    A) Ruined the game of tennis for pretty much everyone who plays it.

    This is what happens when you Min-Max games, work, life, anything. Sure, you might win. Sure your might improve play. But you will ruin whatever it is you are min-maxing. Somehow, someway, the costs you have added to the activity will end up being bourne by someone.

    Min-maxing isn't actually concrete progress. Nothing new or significant is being created here. It's just a reallocation of exisiting finite resources to "win" at a game, or job, or activity of any kind which is still the same. Everyone thinks so much inside the box that they end up breaking it without ever dreaming what life would be like outside the box, or without the box entirely. The quintessential example of this is the computerisation arms races in modern finance.

    If you invent a new chemical polymer, or a new aerospace rocket, a new software algorithm, or hell a new kind of sports game, you are actually making progress, advancing humanity however slightly. If you spend all day trying to gain a technological edge in tennis, or shave off a few microcents in the stock market, then you are part of the growing legion of hamster-wheelers, running the world ragged by optimising within constraints instead of finding ways to break out of those constraints entirely.

  • by Bender Unit 22 ( 216955 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @08:40AM (#46089829) Journal

    Will it stop the ridiculous screaming? It really makes it comical and unbearable to watch.

  • If 'spaghetti-strung' racquets create large amounts of spin, and this makes the game boring due to over caution from both players, then would it be far fetched to suggest that racquets with little or no spin would make the game more enjoyable than it is now?

    Same question goes for table tennis.
    • No, I don't think that necissarilly follows. It's about balance, you don't want people doing cautious taps and lobs all day, but you do want cautious taps and lobs to be a viable strategy some of the time. Knowing when to do a backspin dropshot, and having the skill and timing to do it well, is part of what makes the game exciting.

      Think how boring an RTS game would be if the only viable strategy was to rush an attack in the first 5 minutes. Then think how boring the first five minutes would be if there w

    • Players are always pushing the limits of the equipment. They string their racquets loosely, fewer crosses, with string that grips the ball more. The extra spin generated is used to generate 100 MPH forehand shots, and balls that rotate at over 3000 RPMs, generating crazy kicks upwards, outwards, etc. Players could just use the new racquet designs to make points last longer and they often do -- but that extra control they get from the spin factor allows them to do things with their bodies and ball older r

  • Sounds like a racket to me ;-)

  • by QilessQi ( 2044624 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @09:49AM (#46090137)

    the ITF has also brought in a new rule — Rule 31 — to reflect the growing use of connected equipment

    So... not unlike Rule 34, then...

  • Seems like golf would be a much more appropriate application of this. Golfers are always analyzing and trying to improve their swing.

    • Seems like golf would be a much more appropriate application of this. Golfers are always analyzing and trying to improve their swing.

      Just like tennis players do. Why would golf be "more appropriate"? Golf swings can be easily studied already because they are isolated events. It's much more difficult in tennis which is a fast-paced, reactive sport.

  • I'm an avid cyclist and ride lots of miles per year. No computer. No electronics. No power meter. No GPS. No nothing.

    I don't bother with "group rides" anymore because, well for starters I'm sick and tired of the "I'm Lance" crowd always biking off and riding like dicks - but they all have one thing in common - they're quite figuratively buried in electronic gadgets and spend 90% of their time on the ride staring down at a computer display and shouting out numbers at each other in some sort of ersatz dick-me

  • Ya wanna earn some serious cash from sensors in tennis, put a sniff sensor in Maria Sharapova's shoe.

    Hey, man, it's your thing. I just read about you pervs on the internet.

  • but, tennis is also about movement. It's not all in the swing of the racquet but if that is your game's defiency then this tool can definitely be of help.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"