The tennis technology landscape is exploding with new and exciting gadgets and wearables. These products are accessible not only to professional players but also to aspiring amateurs and hobbyists.
This is our overview of connected gear for tennis that has the potential to take your game up a notch.
While they may look and feel like normal tennis rackets, Babolat’s Pure Drive, Pure Drive Lite and Pure Aero rackets come with built-in sensors. There is also a matching app that records details of your playing performance.
Inside the grip of each of these you’ll find an accelerometer, gyroscope and piezoelectric sensor. The accelerometer determines the direction of the racket while the gyroscope tracks its rotation. Through the ball impact locator feature, the piezoelectric sensor analyzes the vibration of the racket to inform you of the racket’s “sweet spot”.
The detail, if we are happy to accept it is largely correct, is fascinating. There are numerous broad categories to digest, including time the ball is in play, longest rally, shots per minute, and even an estimation of energy spent. Then you can delve into individual strokes—forehands, backhands, serves, and smashes—to see how many you hit, and then go even deeper to see your power, spin, and proficiency. It’s a lot of fun to take apart.
Babolat is also working on a new product dubbed Babolat Pulse. This is a lightweight detachable sensor that fits the butt cap of the company’s rackets. However, for non-compatible rackets, the same device can be fitted onto the strigbed, i.e. it can be used as a vibration dampener. No word yet on a release date.
Last year, Zepp released the second generation of its smart tennis sensor. Unlike some of its competition, you can attach it to any racket and it will monitor key performance metrics so you can improve your technique on the court.
There are some key differences between the Zepp Tennis 1 and 2. The new device offers a highlight camera, additional performance metrics and enhanced social features. It also features longer battery life, a quicker charge time and more internal smarts.
You attach the little gadget in one of three ways. Via the Flex Mount which works on any racket and can be reused, the Pro Mount which can be stuck on the butt cap with a stick-on holder, and an Insert Mount which only works on selected models. Zepp captures over 1,000 data points per second, and wirelessly sends the information to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth.
The device tracks forehands, backhands, serves and smashes, including the power generated with each stroke or over the course of a whole game. Zepp also measures top-spins, slices and flat shots and records the amount of time you spent actively on the court. The statistics show you how often you are hitting the ball in and around the sweet spot. Ball speed and ball spin speed are additional metrics that are only available on the second generation device.
Zepp has gone big on the social aspect and video editing tools. If you’re the sort of person who likes to make videos of your play, you’ll be happy to know the sensor comes with lots of tools for this purpose.
In/Out is in a class of its own in terms of what it can do. The GoPro like device can be fastened to any tennis net post in less than a minute to detect in real-time which side of the line the ball lands. It does this thanks to the same algorithms that provide line-detection for self driving cars. You essentially get your own personal ‘Hawkeye’ system.
Its line calling is not perfect, and operates with a margin of error of 20-30 millimetres. While this may not be precise enough for professional tennis players, it is perfectly acceptable for a Sunday tournament match, recreational play or a junior tennis match. In any case, it is definitely better than the eye.
But that’s not all, In/Out also detects let serves and provides detailed stats analysis. For each shot, the gadget will track the ball speed, spin and location with 99% accuracy. Further analysis will show shot placement with percentage by zone as seen on TV, calculated for both players. Plus you’ll get 1080p video replay of your matches.
Babolat and the French tech outfit PIQ have recently launched another tennis sensor. This neoprene wristband comes on the heels of the Babolat Pop wristband, its less sophisticated cousin.
Similar to the POP, the ‘Babolat and PIQ’ comes in the form of a lightweight wristband-mounted sensor that records your stats. PIQ says its device tracks data using 13 different axes and includes NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy. Despite the differences in price and features, PIQ says both models share the same user community.
To use the gadget, simply place the tracker inside the wristband, turn it on, and play. ‘Babolat and PIQ’ will then track many metrics of your shots including velocity, height, air time, G force, amplitude and trajectory. Best of all, the information can be seen on the wristband display in realtime giving your playing experience a new dimension. For more detailed stats, head over the the smartphone app after the game.
PIQ’s sensor is actually a multi-purpose unit that’s adaptable to other sports. In fact, the company recently launched golf, kite board and ski applications. They all use the same core unit, but sell with separate accessories.
Babolat Pop is the world first connected tennis wristband. Made of breatheable neoprene, the device was created in collaboration with French tech outfit PIQ in late 2015. Simply put the wristband on your dominant wrist, slide in the sensor and start tracking your game.
Pop collects data about players’ performance, including forehands, backhands, smashes, volleys, serves, spin, racquet speed, shots, playtime, activity score, PIQ score, best rally and rate (shots/minute). The unique PIQ scoring system combines your swing speed, spin and style (the “fluidity” of your stroke) into one number that you can use to track your own game.
Qlipp is one of the lightest sensors on the market. It attaches to any racket to track your game while at the same time acting as a dampener.
To use it, simply turn on the sensor, the bluetooth on your smartphone, and launch the app. Your session is now being recorded in real time. It is worth noting that you do need to bring both your Qlipp sensor and your smartphone into the court in order for your measurements to be recorded and saved. However, your smartphone does not have to be near as the sensor has a detection range of 40m- 50m (whole court).
The device measures every part of your stroke (forehand, backhand, and serve), including ball speed (it uses the rackethead speed to derive the estimated ball speed), spin (top spin, slice, flat), and sweet spot accuracy of each shot.
Essential reading: The battle of the tennis sensors – who is winning
After the session, you can play back and review every stroke in slow motion (if you have switched on the video function), allowing you to gain more insight into your technique. You can even set the device up to call out stats during the game. And, for added convenience, there is a Qlipp Apple Watch app.
Some two years in the making, Slinger is designed to resemble an oversized tennis bag. You can put things in it such as your racket, a water bottle, towel and more. It even has a USB port for charging your smartphone while practicing. Carry it on your back as you would a normal tennis bag, or just pull it along as a trolley. The bag holds 36 balls when closed and 72 when open.
That’s all very nice. But the really cool thing about this bag is that it can hurl balls in your direction at speeds ranging between 10 and 80 miles per hour. You control the speed and the gizmo can be set to launch shots at a variety of angles and elevation modes. The feed rate ranges from 2 to 10 seconds. And if you set it to low speed and low feed, it acts like a ball boy – useful for practicing serves, for example.
A ball retrieving Roomba of tennis courts? Why not.
Perfecting your tennis shots takes countless hours of practice. With that, comes the tedious chore of picking up hundreds and hundreds of tennis balls. Tennibot does this job for you. The robotic tennis ball collector uses multiple sensors and a camera to detect and quickly sweep up balls around the court.
You can let Tennibot work autonomously using the camera station which easily attaches to a net-post. Or use the accompanying smartphone app to let the robotic tennis ball collector know where on the court it should clear. The removable bucket can hold up to 80 tennis ball at a time.
Pivot, a Silicon Valley sports company has entered the race with its own tennis tracker. The company has successfully raised funds on Indiegogo to develop the product, which is due to start shipping to backers any time now.
The Pivot tennis tracker promises to improve a player’s game by recording 360 degree motion, preventing injuries and collecting statistics on a wide range of performance metrics including footwork, body position, elbow bend, knee bend, and more. While current products attach one sensor to a tennis racquet, Pivot uses multiple sensors to recreate joint and body movements, thus providing an unprecedented level of detail. The sensors attached to different areas of the body or clothing.
The device records full body movements by leveraging multiple 9-axis sensors and proprietary data capture software. Each sensor has an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer to process up to 1000 data samples per second.
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