Some people argue that technology makes us lazy couch-potatoes who spend all day sitting in front of various screens. But tech can also make us better athletes by providing us with information about our sporting performance - whether it's shoes which log a basketball player's jumps, or outfits which give dancers feedback about their moves. Tennis players could soon be getting in on the tech-helping-hand action with the introduction of an interactive racquet.
The Babolat Play & Connect interactive tennis racquet is designed to look and feel like any other from the French sporting manufacturer, but its handle is packed with sensors and electronics which record data about a player's game and allow users to analyze their performance either by downloading the info via USB, or watching live stats over a wireless connection to a computer, tablet or smartphone.
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Babolat says it partnered with movement analyzing firm Movea to produce the racquet, which has been five years in the making, and that it's the first MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) technology enabled racquet with the built-in ability to gather and analyze game data.
It's hoped the Play & Connect racquet will help tennis players (pro and amateur alike) access the information they need to analyze their game, including the strokes they've played (forehand, backhand, serve), ball spin, the position of the ball on the string bed, power during play and service speed. All information can be viewed live or retrospectively and raw data means performances can be compared by players or their coaches.
A prototype of the connected racquet was recently shown off at the French Open in Paris, with players including Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kim Clijsters and Li Na putting it through its paces. The audience watched the action as live game statistics - including shot type, power and consistency - appeared on the big screen and their tablet computers or smartphones.
"The Babolat Play & Connect racquet is a tremendous tool. Having this new technology to capture information from my matches will mean a new way of analyzing my game," said Rafael Nadal. But while performances can also be shared on social networking sites, we think it's safe to say Li Na won't be publishing them to her Facebook account. "I wouldn't want to show this to my competitors," she said during the Roland-Garros demo.
"This is a connected and communicating racquet that will give players information they can use to improve performance or just have fun sharing with other passionate tennis players," said Babolat Chairman and CEO, Eric Babolat. The electronic racquet is due to go on sale in 2013 for an estimated price of around €250 (approximately US$313).
Here's a video of Nadal and Tsonga giving the prototype racquet a go: