It’s not often that military technology crosses paths with area tennis facilities, but a strange mix arose this week when Playsight, a company that uses a system similar to that used to train Israeli Air Force pilots, announced a $3.5 Million fundraise to take that technology and bring it to…tennis courts, with maybe hoops hardwood down the line as well.
With a U.S. office that will be based in New Jersey and systems already installed in Bogota, Riverdale and Tenafly, Playsight is looking to bring the use of sports analytics to the masses.
“We are very proud to have such a powerful group of investors who share our vision of bringing elite player technology to the grassroots and club level,” said Chen Shachar, PlaySight CEO in a press release earlier this week. “When we developed this technology we saw an opportunity to create an affordable, easy-to-install, cloud-based system for athletes of all levels to improve their game. In the same way that wearable tech devices and micro-cameras are transforming running and extreme sports, we are certain that SmartCourts will make tennis more engaging and fun. PlaySight combines advanced player analytics technology (PAT) with video-replay and social media to deliver an exceptional experience to the world’s 100 million tennis players. It will change the way we play ball-sports forever.”
That investor group includes Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King, USTA Board member Mark Ein and longtime sports business honcho Ray Benton, along with veteran tennis coach and entrepreneur Gordon Uehling, who has used his New Jersey clubs as a litmus test for Playsight to get a foothold amongst area players.
The technology uses five HD cameras, that automatically classifies and tags all the events that take place during a match without the need for court-side operators or wearable sensors. Players can watch selected events (e.g. every backhand down the line that went long), with no need to watch the whole video or manually tag it. PlaySight is also able to record 3D tactical game management information including the height of balls over the net, speed of every shot and the depth of balls hit within the court.
The SmartCourt is easily operated by the players through a courtside kiosk and all video and data can be shared within seconds with coaches, friends and family at remote locations. Players can also track distance covered and calories burned during a match or practice session. In short, high tech analytics comes to tennis, at a fraction of the cost of what elite players and leagues may be engaging with in other sports like the NBA.
While only on a handful of courts thus far, officials have said they plan to expand greatly at facilities on Long Island, New Jersey and the five boroughs before this summer’s US Open, hopefully driving not just interest in watching tennis, but in playing the game for first adopters of all ages. The company’s video shows elite players being engaged alongside kids, a critical mix, which could also factor in Baby Boomers, to make Playsight a must have for anyone interested in a quick and effective workout on the tennis court.
While starting in tennis, the information out this week indicates that the technology is also adaptable to any sport that uses a ball and a court, making the possibilities of adaptation endless, and with more adaptation comes affordability. Can Playsight become to a wearable tech generation what pitch-backs and air hockey have been to people of a certain age? Hard to say right now, but it seems like the evolution of tech and sport together continues to grow, this time on our local tennis courts, giftwrapped by some smart military vets from abroad.