For fitness enthusiasts wanting to keep track of performance, or sports professionals looking for real-time information to help improve their game, the selection of monitoring devices is pretty good ... if you happen to be a runner or a cyclist. There's even one for kayakers. If you're a tennis player, however, your options are pretty much non-existent. Veteran French racket specialist Babolat is looking to address this shortfall with the release of its Play Pure Drive. The sensor packed racket collects data on a player's game, which is then transmitted to a smartphone or tablet running a proprietary app for analysis.
"The idea was actually born 10 years ago," CEO Eric Babolat tells us. "But the technology was not ready then. We have been waiting for the advancement of electronic technologies, especially regarding sensors. We have been heavily focused on this project for six years. The availability of this new technology will really bring a new way to understand the game."
The usually empty space in the octagonal-shaped handle of the Babolat Play Pure Drive racket has been packed with an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a microprocessor board to translate and record the collected data. The sensors are claimed capable of determining spin level, energy, play time and ball impact location, though the company is keeping details of precisely how this is achieved to itself.
The connected racket shares its treasure trove of performance data with a smartphone or tablet running the Babolat Play app over Bluetooth or via USB. Players will be able to review performance history, upload, share and compare stats with other Play Pure Drive users, and challenge friends or colleagues to get a higher global ranking in the Babolat community.
"We've been working with Movea (a leader in capturing and analyzing movements, providing software, embedded intelligence), who co-developed with Babolat exclusive detection and analysis solutions, allowing the racquet to detect and measure the player's movements," the CEO and company president continues. "Our challenge was to include electronic devices without changing the weight of the racquet. Babolat Play does not alter the sensations/feel of the game. The weight is 300 g (10.6 oz), the same as a regular Pure Drive."
The Play edition also has the same 100 sq in (645 sq cm) racket head as its Pure Drive stablemate, and is available in grip sizes from one to five.
The company has also been working closely with the International Tennis Federation to make sure that any Babolat performance monitoring and feedback tools don't break any rules. From January 2014, the ITF will add a new rule to the Rules of Tennis that permits the use of player analysis technologies during official competitions.
The Play Pure Drive will launch in the US during December for a suggested retail price of US$399, but Babolat is currently accepting applications for US players to join its Play Test Team and be among the first to experience the system before it's opened up to the public.
Have a look at the video overview below.