Portable smart scoreboard works with Bluetooth, USB or remote control
By C.C. Weiss
June 29, 2012
How can you possibly keep track of how much you're "winning" if you don't have something to keep score on? The simply named Portable Scoreboard is a scoreboard for the new generation of winning. Whatever your game is, the digital scorekeeper gives you a variety of ways of tallying up - everything from old fashioned push buttons to an open-source build that allows for external sensors and custom programming.
As much as nice folks tell us that it's about having fun or playing the right way, that doesn't always ring true in the real world. When you're in a heated 3 a.m. game of drunken foosball with your roommate, no one cares how you're playing the game - it's about who's going to bed a champion and who's staying awake practicing until morning while crying into his warm beer. Problem is, when you're in the middle of a drunken foosball match, sometimes you forget to tally a point here or there and totally lose track of who's actually in the lead.
Bob Baddeley had that exact experience, many times from the sounds of it. Instead of doing what the average guy would do - argue, throw things, declare his own victory and storm away in anger - he did something more productive: he designed his own portable smart-scoreboard.
"I like playing games and sports, but I don't like when everyone forgets the score," Baddeley explains on Kickstarter. "I wanted something I could use for all my sports that could travel with me and not get in the way of the game. When I bring a prototype to places, people feel like the game is more important and pro, and they rely on the scoreboard almost immediately."
Baddeley didn't just ape one of the existing portable scoreboards on the market; he built an updated model. It gives users a lot of flexibility in what they keep score of and how they control the score. It has external buttons on top for manual score keeping, a remote control, and Bluetooth and USB for keeping score via smartphone/computer. It can keep track of either score or time, and its large, bright digits are easy to see, even if it's across the court. At 18 x 10 x 2 inches (46 x 25 x 5 cm) and 2 lbs. (907 g), it's small enough to fit in a backpack for easy transport. Hang it on the wall; prop it up on its kickstand; or mount it on a tripod.
Now, the problem with keeping track of score isn't necessarily that there isn't a tool for doing so. Many games, including foosball and air hockey, have built-in scoring systems. The problem is more that players forget to actually use them. While a big, bright scoreboard is harder to overlook, it won't necessarily solve the problem altogether. That's why Baddeley equipped the Portable Scoreboard with ports for external switches. End users can customize the scoreboard for their games of choice. Baddeley mentions adding things like under-table switches for ping pong scoring or a waterproof sensor mat for tracking swimming laps.
To give the Portable Scoreboard life beyond sports, the open API allows users to develop their own uses, such as displaying website hits, professional sports scores or Twitter followers. The accompanying website supports a developer community, where users can research and share information about building switches and designing software for the device.
Baddeley has already built a few prototypes and says that he's been working with some Chinese manufacturers on the design. He had an ambitious Kickstarter goal of $200,000 for ordering components, prepping for manufacturing and paying for licensing fees, but subsequently canceled the campaign. Baddeley admits that the campaign was a bit hurried and tells us that he expects to refine his effort and relaunch on Kickstarter within about a month.