Numbers Cruncher

by: Jon Levey | May 23, 2014

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For as long as I can remember I’ve used a vibration dampener in my racquet. I generally attach a smallish clip variety that muffles string noise without completely silencing it. Some players mistakenly label these devices “shock absorbers,” but they’re far too small to lessen ball impact. Its primary function is to affect string vibrations, making it more of a comfort—even psychological—tool for the user. Players with no concern for noise at contact probably find dampeners to be useless pieces of rubber advertising.

But Shot Stat’s Challenger may change the minds of even the most ardent dampener doubter. No, this slightly bigger and heavier dampener—about the weight of between two and three regular dampeners—will do little to absorb impact, but it will bring a whole new level of understanding to your game. Using multiple accelerometers and gyroscopes to capture raw motion data, the Shot Stat Challenger provides instant swing analysis, including racquet-head speed (in M.P.H. and K.P.H.), ball spin, impact location, and shot type/count. Ball speed is a little tricky to accurately measure with this type of technology and won’t be available in the first generation. However, if it becomes more precise, future updates could enable this function.

The data can be read directly on the Shot Stat Challenger screen or via Bluetooth to a mobile device app (just iOS and web at the moment). Inputting details in the app such as racquet type, string, and string tension will help get more authentic results. And up to 15 seconds of video at a time can be taken with the mobile device and integrated with the data collection, allowing the app to overlay the numbers onto the actual strokes.

Bringing tennis to the information age through recordable stats and identifiable metrics seems to be the next frontier in recreational tennis. Earlier in the week I wrote about Novak Djokovic and Billie Jean King investing in PlaySight’s SmartCourt, and late last year I reviewed the Babolat Play Pure Drive, both of which are designed to give players reams of playing data. Whereas the former requires the player to be on a particular court and the latter using a specific racquet, the Shot Stat Challenger has the versatility to be used anywhere and on any frame. Through the app there’s a user community element as well.

The Atlanta company has been developing the device since it formed in 2013. (Check out the video below. Reminds me of the credits to a Bourne movie.). They are currently working on refining the product with the hardware-based accelerator, HAXLR8R, in Shenzhen, China. Earlier this month they also launched a Kickstarter campaign, with the goal of reaching $75,000 (they’re nearly 2/3 of the way there). A $150 pledge gets you one of the first Shot Stat Challengers to come off the production line. If all goes well the company hopes to have testable beta versions by mid November.

Until then, dampeners remain for sound purposes only.  

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