It was back in 2007 that Adidas first explored the potential of an intelligent football. In the time since, it has continued to smarten up sports performance with heart-monitoring phones, fitness tracking watches and intelligent football boots. Now, just as the globe turns its focus to next month's World Cup in Brazil, it has unveiled the miCoach Smart Ball, a soccer ball with built-in sensors to track everything from the power of your strike to the finesse of your free kick.
The Smart Ball is a 32-panel, regulation size and weight soccer ball (or football, depending on where you hail from) fitted with a Bluetooth 4.0 module. Adidas is tight-lipped on the sensors and algorithms the ball uses, but says it is capable of calculating speed, bend, the location of impact and the trajectory of the kick. It then transmits this data to the companion smartphone app where users can track their development.
Within the app, users can draw on these statistics to refine their technique. It also includes challenges where users can try to bend their free kick around a virtual wall or perfect the "knuckle ball," where the ball is struck dead in its center to create an unpredictable flight path.
The Smart Ball is designed specifically to be used as a training tool in dead-ball situations, such as free kicks, penalties, corners, shots, goal kicks and long passes. The sensors only track the ball's movement through the air and are rendered useless if the ball is kicked along the ground.
Building technology into a round ball appears an emerging trend, suggesting there is something to be gained from tracking its orientation and trajectory through the air. Wilson last month revealed its Smart Basketball, which also pairs with an smartphone app to provide feedback on performance. When it comes to soccer, this technology could prove particularly useful where the way the ball is struck can be the difference between bending it like Beckham and sending it into the stands.
The Smart Ball is compatible with Bluetooth LE-capable iOS devices and comes with a charging base and wall plug. It is available through the Adidas website for US$299.