Like any modern sport, basketball is continually evolving. Whether it’s professional, minor or rec league, basketball is a thrilling pastime for player and spectator alike. And, one could argue, the best is yet to come. As basketball becomes more and more immersed in modern technology, the innovations that are being created could change how we watch and play the game. Wearables, motion-capturing cameras and advanced biometric data are already shifting the landscape of this sport, but that could just be the beginning. Discover how TE Connectivity’s sensor technologies could help shape the future of basketball.
There’s the old adage that "practice makes perfect." And while perfect is easily the greatest goal one can have, making better use of practice is what will help reach peak performance goals faster. In recent years, technological advancements within the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor technology have given basketball players a slew of smart ways to improve the way they practice and train, giving them a competitive advantage. Historically, a basketball shot had two outcomes — a make or a miss. By placing vibration sensors on the basketball rim or backboard, players can now study the specific angles and trajectories of those makes and misses. The vibration sensors combined with IoT technology can send real-time data to an app or smart device, where players can see how they’ve performed and improve their shot. Players can now focus on more intricate details of a shot attempt than merely in-or-out, enabling them to place more shots in a “guaranteed make zone.”
In addition to shooting skills, running speed and jumping ability are also key factors to scoring in basketball. Your feet aren’t maneuvering fast enough to make the play. Or your legs and core can’t quite get you high enough to dunk. But what if technology could tell you exactly how much farther you needed to go to make it happen? Basketball is a game of constant stop and go movements. For this reason, basketball players need to be able to start, stop, and restart quickly and effectively. Altimeters attached to a player's sneaker could measure speed to help the player improve their footwork, balance, and agility. Accelerometers embedded into the fabric of a player’s uniform could measure jump rate, vertical jump height, and rotation over the duration of a practice or game. Accelerometers in a wearable wristband device could measure a player’s speed, analyze motion, recognize a shot, and send instant feedback to a smart device the moment the ball leaves the player’s hands. Audio and visual cues on the wristband let the player know exactly what they need to work on and what their weaknesses are. The data could all be stored and accessed in real-time through a smartphone app or web dashboard by both the coach and the player.
When it comes to the game of regulation basketball, referees are just as much a part of the game as players and coaches. They face their own unique expectations and pressure each time they set foot on the court, including the inevitable mistakes. However, the days of bad calls may soon come to an end. By embedding piezo film sensors into the basketball court’s hardwood surface, referees will be able to accurately rule if a player hits the 3-point line or if he/she is out of bounds. Piezo sensor technology could determine the exact moment the ball crosses the line to count as a score and relay the real-time data to a computer or smart device to soundly validate the referees’ judgments.
As technology evolves and attention spans shorten, sports teams and properties will have to rethink strategies and channels to enhance the fan experience. Virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are key emerging technologies with the potential to do just that. Virtual reality has the ability to put fans in the middle of the action regardless if they’re sitting in a stadium seat or in the comfort of their home, but it also offers unprecedented control over how they consume the game. 5G VR Goggles worn by the basketball players can allow fans to see their point of view of the basketball game in real-time. The headset would tune out external stimulation and place the fan truly courtside, providing 360-degree close-up views of the players, referees, and fans through a 5G network. Artificial intelligence technology is also making its way onto the court to transform the sports fan experience. AI tech goes beyond simplistic analytics and can gather specific data points that evaluates a player’s unique stats to provide a richer view into probable player performance. Basketball fans in a virtual courtside seat could have a better, more immersive experience than in the stadium plastic seats. Pairing both VR and AI technology with spatial computing could bring basketball fans a completely new, customized and intimate experience—anywhere, anytime. Fans could have access to screens of information and the real-time perspective of being on the court and other never before seen angles of the court. They can enjoy their favorite stats, replays, and commentary – all without missing any of the game action.
So what’s next for sensors in the fast-moving field of sports tech and basketball? While difficult to definitively say as the possibilities are endless, one thing is certain - with so many new resources and technologies becoming available to athletes and spectators, the key to success on and off the court becomes smart connectivity, data, and perseverance. As technologies continue to develop, improve in accuracy, shrink in size, and become more cost effective, it is likely that sensors will continue to find their way into sports like basketball and take us beyond the traditions we know today. Rest assured, the days of tracking scores and stats with pencils and notepads are quickly becoming as antiquated as it sounds – and tomorrow’s games have endless awesome possibilities.
Brittany Bardo, Marketing Analyst, Sensor Solutions