Hawk-Eye for the Cost of a Racket? Plus Analysis? Wow
If you watch tennis often enough, you’re well aware of the Hawk-Eye technology used in professional tournaments these days. It tends to take the controversy out of matches and brings the crowd into the game through “ohs” and “ahs” as the result appears on the big screen at a professional match. Trouble is, at 60K per court, it’s nothing but professional gadgetry.
Then there’s the Playsight system, which can be set up for a meagre 10K per court. Throw in some courtside analytics and comments from Paul Annacone, and maybe a few top clubs around the world would be interested.
Now, for the cost of a racket, it would appear that French inventor, Gregoire Gentil (he lives in California), has come up with the first affordable version of line calling technology.
How Does In/Out Work?
For a quick look, check out the Bloomberg video below, released late this week
At the outset, GT must divulge that we haven’t tested the product, although we’ll be trying our hardest! It looks simple enough. Two cameras are mounted on the device, one for each end of the court. There’s a screen on top of the unit if you wish to replay a point, or at least see where the ball landed. The unit is mounted via a strap on the top of the net post.
The unit beeps when a ball is out and also has red and green flashing lights to illustrate whether the ball was in or out. Hence the unit’s name we’re guessing.
There’s also an app to assist users with match or practice session analysis. This is where this coach gets really excited.
It’s been well documented that Hawk-Eye gets line calls right to within 3mm. For 60k, some would argue it should be less than 3mm.
So what does 200 bucks buy you in terms of accuracy? Accuracy to within 20mm, or around 3/4 of an inch. That sounds really impressive. Hawk-Eye is 300 times the price and the In/Out is 7 times less accurate.
The only problem is that 20mm probably isn’t good enough to rely on it as your only method of calling lines during a match. We also wonder whether the mounting position (on the net post) is going to make it difficult to make a call on video replay either. We doubt the In/Out will replace umpires or self-umpired matches without a little more accuracy.
But that’s not the exciting part.
Coaching and Player Analytics
Ever since the evolution of tennis racket sensors, we’ve been troubled by one major drawback of all the tennis sensors available on the market today. It’s all very well, as a player or a coach, to say your topspin was this and your slice was that. Or the ball speed was this and the racket speed was that.
The most important thing is missed. Was the ball in or out?!
Additionally, where did it actually land? All very well to hit the ball in the court but if more than half your backhands are landing inside the service line, close to the center line, you’re going to have a problem.
There was a rumour around last year that a certain racket manufacturer was going to solve the problem with a fence mounted camera, but nothing came of it.
If Mr Gentil has been able to bridge the gap between racket sensor analytics and actual ball position, our hats off to him……in a big way. There’s massive potential for a product like this in coaching and individual player analytics. And for 200USD the In/Out will (and should) top Christmas lists over other racket sensors.
There’s also the possibility to use the In/Out in conjunction with a racket sensor. Now there’s some analytics worth having.
The In/Out should be available during the upcoming Northern Hemisphere Summer. We hope to test one before then.