Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
Babolat announced last week that they are developing a tennis racket, prototype to be shown first at the Roland Garros, that will store data about your swing and “flow”. They released very little else about its capabilities, but Eric Babolat, CEO, commented:
“Innovation is only valuable if it advances the game of tennis to the benefit of the greatest number of people, in 1875, Babolat invented the first strings for tennis racquets. More than 135 years of innovation and progress later, I am proud to present today our vision of the tennis of tomorrow, brought by our Play & Connect racquet.”
The planned launch date is 2013, so hopefully we will hear more about it then, but if the sensors integrated are similar to accelerometers then we can expect positional, velocity and acceleration data of the racket during use. It will be interesting to see how they separate a stroke with general play (probably through the accelerations and velocity), how they average the data over a particular stroke (so will it tell us the speed of a forehand smash, baseline shot, dropshot?), how the data will be presented to the public in a meaningful way (is it better to hit it faster? I doubt it because the racket would need to go at a specific speed to hit the baseline, any faster and it would overshoot) and how this will affect performance characteristics such as weight, vibration, sound and so on. Sensors will soon be in every sports product we use, but the hardest part is making sense of the data which is extracted. Sometimes position, power and speed are not necessarily the key parameters to look for. Understanding Babolat’s vision for the “flow of data” is intriguing and I am interested as to the market – competition or training. Would people buy a training racket? I don’t know but looking forward to finding out.
Monday, January 23rd, 2012
The Royal Institution of Science are hosting a great series of lectures across the UK investigating cutting edge design, technology and science in sport. Many of my colleagues are presenting and this should be an inspirational series of lectures that delve into the depths of sports technology, science and engineering. Best of all – they are all FREE!!! The list of lecture titles and where they are being held are below:
Cutting Edge 2012: Behind Basketball
Wednesday 25 January 7.00pm – 8.30pm
The Royal Institution, London
Cutting Edge 2012: Behind Triathlon
Tuesday 27 March 7.00pm – 8.30pm
Cutting Edge 2012: Behind Athletics
Thursday 26 April 7.00pm – 8.30pm
English Institute of Sport, Sheffield
Cutting Edge 2012: Behind Diving
Thursday 5 July 7.00pm – 8.30pm
Plymouth Life Centre, Plymouth
Cutting Edge 2012: Behind Sailing
Weymouth Sailing Academy, Weymouth
Cutting Edge 2012: Behind Cycling
Thursday 19 July 7.00pm – 8.30pm
The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow
For more information please visit the Royal Institution of Great Britain website.
Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Over the past couple of years, the team at Progressive Sports Technologies have been investigating running clothing reflectivity. It is a very new field to sports companies and one that has had little research or development. Indeed the team have developed many novel ways to assess reflectivity, contrast, and fabric brightness. In a survey of current night-time running jackets, there were a few brands who have delivered adequate solutions, but still consumers are frustrated by the need for the bright colours (yellow, orange, green) and silver 3M bands that are not very attractive in the daylight, nor are they very aesthetically pleasing. However, to me, Nike have created a fantastic solution, particularly if the developments of this fabric stem into different colourways to provide contrast in different environments. The Nike Vapor Flash running jacket appears matte in the daylight, but reflective at night! Of course, this would have little effect when there is no light present such as in the countryside at night, but for urban running this could be the optimum solution. Although we haven’t been able to get one in person, it appears to be a novel fabric using 3M reflective spheres. Much better and more attractive that the typical bands we see at the minute. Great job Nike – a truly unique innovation in this market!
Tuesday, January 10th, 2012
2011 was an active year in the sporting goods industry, highlighted by the multitude of articles found on the this website. I’m confident that 2012 will see even more exciting articles published, and it is lining up to be an action packed year of sport ahead with the London Olympics no doubt being the pinnacle event on the horizon.
Looking back on the year just gone I believe the stand out headline of 2011 on the sports technology front was the huge $25 million fine imposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Reebok. The fine was issued due to the advertising campaign for the Reebok ‘EasyTone’ shoe that was reported to improve muscle toning and strength in the leg and bottom region by astronomical margins. This is likely to be the first time in the sporting goods industry that such a phenomenal sum has been imposed for false advertising. I’m sure that the size of the fine was felt even at Reebok (owned by adidas AG, the second largest sporting goods brand in the world) and will send a strong message to the marketing driven sports goods industry that basing results and statistics on insignificant sample populations (in some cases one!) is not acceptable for ethical marketing campaigns.
The fine was large, but it was interesting to note that no such fines have been imposed anywhere else globally, the FTC are an independent agency accountable in the US only. This raises an important question for advertising legislation and management in the UK and the rest of the world. Why is the FTC the only body to have acted on Reebok’s global advertising campaign? On a much more positive note, it is hoped that the long term effect of this fine, is increased research and development funding at sporting goods companies. The message is clear; marketing has to be based on credible facts and figures rather than fantasy, which will incur associated time and resource costs.
Article by Jouni Ronkainen
Wednesday, December 14th, 2011
A busy year of sport is eagerly expected for 2012 and 2013 including some of the most widely viewed events around the world: The London Olympics Games, The Rugby Lions Tour of Australia and of course the UEFA European Football Championship held by joint hosts Poland and Ukraine.
The 2008 European championships, or Euros, held in Austria and Switzerland attracted circa 155 million live TV viewers over the tournament, a 33.9% increase on the 2004 Euros.
It is tradition that a new football is designed for every UEFA Euros and FIFA World Cup. The 2012 UEFA Euros is no exception and adidas, the official match ball supplier have designed the novel TANGO 12 football.
This ball is based on the modern FIFA 2010 World Cup football the ‘Jabulani’ (The most widely purchased football of all time, selling over 13 million replicas in 2010) and the balls of yesteryear; Tango River Plate (1980), Tango Mundial (1984) and Tango European (1988).
The TANGO 12 ball incorporates a 32 panel construction where the panels are thermally bounded together. This method forms the seams that are commonly expected on modern footballs, and then a protruding micro surface texture is applied to the outer surface. With 100’s of hours spent on wind tunnel testing, robot kicking trials and player testing, the design, dimensions and distribution of the surface textures (seams and micro texture) have been extensively measured and optimised. This ensures the ball produces a favourable performance, in terms of dynamic and aerodynamic characteristics. It also meets all FIFA denomination programme regulations and undergone rigorous durability tests as shown in the video in the link below:
It is clear from this video that footballs are much more than just the fancy graphics and advertising…
So next time you pick up a football take a closer look and see whether it is glued or stitched, 32 or 24 panels, smooth or micro surface textured.
Sports engineering is still in its infancy and the sophisticated equipment like this with the help of the adidas innovation team, Loughborough Sports Technology Institute and other innovative technical departments, within sporting goods brands, are all helping to push forward the boundaries of science in sport that gives benefits to every sports enthusiast.
Article by David Rogers