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Smart Basketball Helps Athletes Sharpen Their Skills

InfoMotion Sports Technologies has developed a ball fitted with wireless sensors, to transmit data regarding the ball's speed, arc, spin and dribble force, as well as an athlete's performance.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 25, 2013

InfoMotion Sports Technologies, a developer of motion sensor solutions for team sports applications, recently unveiled a new version of its 94Fifty basketball—a ball fitted with wireless sensors designed to measure an athlete's skills in real time.

Kevin King, one of the company's cofounders, was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan 10 years ago, when he first began investigating the use of sensors and wireless technology to enable users to gather information regarding an athlete's performance, based on a ball's movements. Eight years later, he and Michael Crowley, a graduate of the same university's MBA program, cofounded InfoMotion and launched the first version of their product, which they named 94Fifty—referring to a basketball court's length and width, in feet. That version transmits data from Wi-Fi-based sensors to a laptop. The company began selling the basketball, along with a laptop computer, to high school, college and professional teams, for approximately $2,000.

Installed in each 94Fifty basketball is a Bluetooth sensor module and a wireless recharging antenna.

Now, in an effort to provide the solution to individual users rather than to entire teams, via a mobile phone or tablet, the company seeks funding, with plans to release a consumer version of its 94Fifty ball. Like the version designed for team players, the new ball is fitted with a small module incorporating a total of nine sensors that measure such properties as the angle and speed of a ball's movements, as well as a chip that processes that information, a rechargeable battery and a Bluetooth transmitter to forward the relevant details to a mobile phone, tablet or other handheld running an Android or Apple operating system. The phone or tablet then uses the 94Fifty app to enable individuals to view the quality of their performance, compete or compare it with others' performances using the same technology (either at that location or elsewhere), set up challenges, and share data with others via social networks.

According to Mark Davisson, InfoMotion Sports Technologies' president, the company seeks $100,000 in financial support through Kickstarter, and hopes to begin taking orders for the solution soon, and to start shipping the balls with the wireless charger and app in October 2013. The balls will be available for sale online at the company Web site.

In 2003, King had begun developing sensor arrays to track balls' movements, and started working with Crowley, a basketball player who had recommended the sport as a good target for the technology. Basketball, Davisson says, offers the repetitive nature of dribbling, as well as basket shots that require a specific speed and trajectory, and that could be measured using sensors.

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