At this week’s Freescale Technology Forum, Freescale Semiconductor literally rolled the world’s first “intelligent basketball,” the latest in a growing array of everyday products incorporating electronic smarts.
The basketball, demonstrated in a keynote speech at the forum here, provides information to prospective basketball players about the nature of their shooting – specifically, the velocity and angle of each shot.
“According to a study by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, there are two factors that determine the probability of making a free throw: the player’s height, and the player’s control over the ball’s release angle and velocity,” said Michelle Kelsey, a Freescale engineer who worked with sporting good manufacturer Spalding on development of the ball. “By understanding how (an) accelerometer is oriented inside the basketball, we can determine the initial release angle. Using software to extract the acceleration due to motion, we can integrate the acceleration values to approximate velocity.”
Kelsey said that the ball achieves that by incorporating three Freescale components: a three-axis accelerometer, a Zigbee transceiver and an eight-bit microcontroller. During operation, the ball’s accelerometer senses acceleration and then uses the microcontroller to integrate the area under the acceleration curve. It therefore calculates velocity and then employs the transceiver to send the output to a nearby laptop computer to display the results.
Kelsey said that the project was launched by some engineering students and a professor at Indiana University, who originally called Freescale to obtain the necessary electronic components. As the project evolved, Freescale engineers worked with engineers at Spalding to seamlessly incorporate the technology in a production-grade basketball. Freescale engineers said they did not know yet whether Spalding plans to market the smart ball and manufacture it in production volumes.
At the conference’s keynote speech, Freescale CEO Michel Mayer called upon an engineer from the keynote audience of 2,000 to come on stage and shoot a free throw, with the added incentive of a free trip and pit pass to the Monterey Sports Car Championship later this year if he connected on the shot. The engineer, who was chosen arbitrarily from the audience, hit the shot on his first try.
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