In this interview, AZoSensors speaks to Dave Rothenberg, Marketing Director from Movea who recently closed a deal that will see MEMS devices used in tennis.
Can you tell us a little bit about Movea?
With 20 years of motion sensing and consumer electronics industry experience and 200 man-years invested in research & development, Movea is a pioneer in motion-sensing and data fusion technologies and a unique motion sensing expert offering software, embeddable solutions and semiconductor IP for sports, fitness, interactive TV and mobile applications. Movea provides the link between MEMS raw sensor data and compelling motion-based applications, making it easy for our customers to integrate motion functions into their products.
We help our customers create amazing motion and data fusion-based applications, bringing awareness and intelligence to next generation devices and services, based on MEMS sensors and external data processing. Customers can quickly add new capabilities that set their products apart from the competition and create more end-user value while, at the same time, reducing their risk, cost and time-to-market associated with the integration of motion into their products. The maturity of Movea’s solutions, our agnostic positioning, and our track record of 20 commercial products, and more than 6 million units shipped, uniquely place Movea as the foremost provider of motion sensing and data fusion solutions.
Aside from helping our customers in the mobile and interactive TV markets, we’ve also deployed our motion-sensing and data fusion technologies in the sports and health areas, bolstering our partners’ capability to provide amateur and professional athletes as well as sports enthusiasts with the means to train more effectively and improve their game play.
We have developed MoveFit for sports and health. MoveFit technology solutions enable a new generation of sports equipment and sportswear that can monitor, analyze and improve the performance of fitness enthusiasts and athletes from elite to novice. Highly accurate information from motion-aware equipment and clothing makes it possible to train more effectively and achieve new horizons in sports and fitness. A great example of a MoveFit solution is the new Play&Connect tennis racquet from Babolat.
Babolat Play&Connect tennis racquet.
Key features of the Play&Connect racquet include: detecting stroke type, ball spin, power, ball impact position and other game statistics. We have also jointly developed a a couple of products with leading sports goods manufacturer Oxylane, including the Nabaiji a waterproof swimmer lapcounter using SmartMotion technology to automatically count laps as the swimmer flips and the recently launched Ondaily, daily activity counter. We also offer MoveFit solutions for golf and running activities.
What is a MEMS device and where are they currently used?
MEMS stands for Micro Electro Mechanical System and are made using the techniques of microfabrication. Its small size (can vary from well below one micron on the lower end of the dimensional spectrum, all the way to several millimetres), light weight, low cost and its ability for enhanced capability and performance are ideal for devices in a variety of industries including mobile, home entertainment, sports, healthcare, automotive and many more. As consumers demand more intelligent devices capable of sensing and monitoring activities and the environment, MEMS are becoming more relevant in our daily lives.
You recently sealed a deal with Babolat tennis racquets to incorporate your MEMS technology. Why did you choose to partner with Babolat for this project?
Babolat is the third largest tennis racquet manufacturer in the world. We were excited to partner with Babolat to create the first MEMS-enabled tennis racquet, which is the first instance of sensor integration being commercially available in tennis equipment, enabling the measurement and analysis of tennis practice based on sensor data, adding a new dimension to the feeling-based evaluation of performance.
Working with such a visionary partner like Babolat has enabled us to bring market leading innovation to the world of tennis. By leveraging Movea’s integrated SmartMotion® data fusion technology, athletes and sports enthusiasts can measure specific elements of their technique, enabling new opportunities for performance analysis, improvement and social results sharing.
Will the incorporation of MEMS technology into tennis racquets effectively make them "smart/intelligent devices"?
Absolutely. The gameplay analysis in tennis is mostly based on how the player feels when hitting the ball and how the trainer sees the stroke effects. With the Play&Connect racquet, tennis players are able to collect tangible data and display detailed, real-time game statistics such as stroke power, stroke type, ball spin and impact location (i.e., sweet spot), comparing their actual performance to their sensation. Users can review their game stats immediately on their mobile device, making the review of gameplay interactive and more enjoyable. The level of product engagement with the Play&Connect is phenomenal and we believe it truly shows us the future of sports.
How large is the MEMS device and where will you locate it?
MEMS-equipped devices can be very small and integrated in limited parts of a shoe, a racquet, a waterproof MP3 player or as a standalone accessory like the Ondaily product.
How does the SmartMotion enabled sports equipment work?
During the game (or while running or swimming), all sensor-related data is recorded and either analyzed directly on the device or streamed to a mobile device via a wireless connection, where it will be processed. From the different signals received and processed, Movea’s SmartMotion algorithms are able to recognize flips, gestures, strides, etc. and therefore determine the stroke type and turns as well as calculate speed and distance, which can then be shown in real time on the display.
So the data gathered can be used by coaches to help hone the game of the user. No doubt the data will need to be analyzed by a computer. Will the data be available in real time like a formula one race car so that changes can be made on the fly or will it need to be downloaded at the end of a session?
Actions can be taken right away: as the player hits the ball, or the runner starts the race, one can immediately see on the device screen the movement analysis and statistics. Then, reports can be generated to analyze performance evolution over several sessions.
Babolat boasts high profile players such as Rafael Nadal, Jo Wilfred Tsonga, Sam Stosur and Li Na as users of their racquets. Do you know if any of them are using the Play & Connect System?
They are! Babolat hosted an event at the French Open Roland Garros, introducing the Play&Connect racquet, featuring Raphael Nadal, Kim Clijsters, Li Na and Joe Wilfried Tsonga playing with their new racquet. No doubt they are using it on a regular basis to evaluate their performance. Check out some of our videos on our YouTube channel.
There are rules that govern the design of tennis racquets. Will the Babolat Play & Connect system be permitted in grand slam tournaments or will it be restricted to training exercises?
The Babolat Play&Connect does not improve the performance of the gameplay by itself; it is a tool enabling performance measurement and analysis, but players still need to work with their trainers to improve their technique. The Play&Connect does not replace trainer’s expertise and advice in any way. As a tool, we imagine it would be permitted in grand slam tournaments, especially for performances where it is so important to analyze the game moves.
Will the Babolat play & connect system be available for keen amateur tennis players as well as the pros? If so when?
The Babolat Play&Connect will be available for purchase to everyone – from professionals to tennis enthusiasts — in Q3 of 2013.
Can you see this technology becoming invaluable in other sports like squash, baseball and cricket?
We can imagine porting our SmartMotion technology to any of these applications, and beyond. There are no limits to the movements we can measure and process. For example, by embedding a small module on a baseball bat, we could easily measure the speed at impact and evaluate the 3D trajectory of the bat in order to improve hit efficiency. Bringing motion processing to these sports will indeed become invaluable as it will bring a fun and interactive way to better understand and improve performance.
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