Brainy ball keeps tabs on rugby games
Rugby is a chaotic game at the best of times, so it can be difficult to gauge when illegal actions such as forward passes occur. That's where a new "smart rugby ball" comes in, which is packed with sensors that record its movements.
The hardware end of the regulation-weight device was developed by London-based sports tech company Sportable, and incorporated into a ball made by British manufacturer Gilbert.
Among the onboard sensors are an inertial measurement unit (a combination of an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer) and a temperature sensor. These and other tools provide data such as the location and orientation of the ball, the distance and height that it's travelled, its acceleration, and revolutions up to a maximum of 600 rpm.
That information is transmitted from the ball via radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, and picked up by pitch-side receivers – each player also wears an RFID tag, so their movements and locations can likewise be tracked. As a result, it can quickly and accurately be determined if infractions such as forward passes have occurred.
Additionally, the system could be used by coaches to assess players' performance, measuring factors such as the distance of passes, or the amount of time that the ball hangs in the air during box-kicks.
The system was successfully trialled last year, at a RugbyX tournament in London – RugbyX is a particularly fast version of the game, so the event was well-suited as a testbed for the technology.