Meet the world's first smart basketball

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
9:00
AM ET
94 Fifty basketballCourtesy of Nack CreativeThe 94Fifty's internal sensors send data on dribbles and shots to smartphones via Bluetooth.
The intelligence factor in ball technology just went up with the introduction of the 94Fifty Sensor Basketball, the world's first smart basketball.

The ball, made by InfoMotion Sports Technologies, has internal sensors that measure the strengths and weaknesses of its handler, giving instant feedback. Add the 94Fifty to soccer’s latest tech development, a ball that uses FIFA goal-line technology to alert a ref when a goal is scored, and it seems 2013 might be the year of the smart ball.

The 94Fifty Sensor Basketball, which many Division I college teams use a version of, looks like any other regulation-sized ball. That’s to say all of its tech is hidden inside, so don’t expect to spot any of its sensors, which capture 6,000 points of data per second, embedded in the exterior.

Those sensors capture loads of data, including dribble force, backspin, shot arc, shoot speed and consistency, and how long the ball has been in one hand while dribbling. The ball transmits all the info to an app on a smartphone, providing the coach with instant metrics.

It also comes with different drills to help players sharpen their skills and allows for head-to-head competition or virtual play with others around the world. It’s a development you can file under "sport science" -- literally. The ball has been used on the ESPN "Sport Science" show several times.

Mike Crowley, CEO of InfoMotion Sports Technologies, says the device helps coaches and players to not just pinpoint weaknesses, but to analyze and remedy those weaknesses. “Most people have differences between hands when they dribble,” Crowley said. “This, for example, can tell your right hand is 25 percent stronger when you go right, so don’t go left or work on your left more.”

[+] Enlarge94 Fifty basketball
Courtesy of Nack CreativeUsers can enter virtual competitions via the app.
To deliver that kind of insight, the ball relies on Texas Instruments technology, and it touts some serious nerd cred: only 100 milliseconds lag time between touch and transmission. In just three bounces, the device connects to an iOS or Android smart device within 90 feet via Bluetooth.

While it sounds geared toward the professional (and the company is planning its next round of discussions with the NBA), Crowley says that right now the target audience is 10- to 18-year-olds who want rapid improvement. Geez, and to think that all I had to worry about when I was 15 was nailing that crazy backward layup to seal a H-O-R-S-E victory.

The 94Fifty Sensor elite team system can run upward of $5,000, but it soon will be available for a lower individual price. Look for it in March on Kickstarter, where investors can score a price break. Otherwise, it will become available for $295 on www.94Fifty.com beginning in April for pre-order, with shipments beginning in the third quarter of 2013.
Katie Linendoll is an Emmy Award-winning technology expert contributing to ESPN, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. She contributes tech segments to CNN and hosts a tech show on Spike TV. She has a degree in Information Technology New Media from Rochester Institute of Technology and is a diehard Buffalo Bills fan.

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