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Breakdown: Wilson Smart Basketball

We break down a basketball designed by Wilson and SportIQ, which knows whether your last shot was a miss or a make and provides an in-app map of your game, showing you exactly what part of your game needs the most work.

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Since the creation of the National and American League, baseball’s fragmented flow and individual nature lent the sport to easy bookkeeping. Pen and paper showed the value of statistical comparisons, but it wasn’t until recently that less structured, and therefore less quantifiable, sports have started to catch up. For their 2013 season, the entire MLS league wore adidas miCoach jerseys, which tracked their position, speed and heart rate on the field. Building on this technology, adidas is currently developing the miCoach smart_ball, to track passing, shooting and dribbling data. During May, 2014, Sony will release the Smart Tennis Sensor in Japan, which tracks data about a player’s tennis game and transmits it to their smartphone. And now, the newly announced Wilson Smart Basketball will bring automated data collection to recreational basketball players.

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The basketball and accompanying app, slated for wide release during the winter holiday, is the result of a collaboration between Wilson and SportIQ, a Finnish company that specializes in artificial intelligence. After pairing with your smartphone, the connected basketball is able to determine if you made or missed a shot, without any attachments to the rim or net. Using this data, plus your location on the court, the new technology shows you an in-app heat map of where you spend the most time with the ball, where you made the majority of your shots and where you could use some practice.

One of the first popularized forays into basketball data technology was the Noah Basketball Shooting Aids. However,the $5,600 price tag and giant size (only moveable via a handle and two wheels) limited the use to organized teams and basketball clinics. Then, a recent Kickstarter birthed the 94Fifty, which brought this technology to the consumer level, measuring dribble force and speed along with shot speed, backspin and arc. These measurements make it more of a data heavy coach (complete with goals and lesson plans) than Wilson’s Smart Basketball, but lack Wilson’s major selling point: miss/make technology.

The breakthrough of the Smart Basketball is its ability to assess where a shot was taken and if it was a miss or a make. This allows for easy tracking of performance on the court, acting as a secretary rather than a coach. Little is known, but Wilson isn’t promising data on shot arc, spin or speed, meaning players will need to make alterations based on instinct and feel rather than hard data. The Smart Basketball help you find your best game by tracking your performance, not micromanaging your every shot.

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