James Blake and Andy Roddick are among those who have invested in the technology.getty pictures
Swupnil sahai and Richard Hsu were high school tennis players who became roommates at UC Berkeley ten years ago. They bonded with sports before pursuing a career in STEM. Hsu earned a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford before working at LinkedIn, then at an AI-based software startup acquired by Cisco. Sahai, meanwhile, earned a doctorate in statistics from Columbia and then worked at Tesla in its autonomous driving division.
These complementary careers in tech – and their unifying love of tennis – have brought Sahai and Hsu together in their own startup, SwingVision, which uses a single iPhone or iPad camera to track shots, tag and clip videos, and provide feedback. automated line calls.
The product, a Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator graduate, has been featured in several Apple keynotes and commercials, and has become the official ball tracking app of three major organizations – the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, Tennis Australia and the Lawn Tennis Association of Canada. UK. SwingVision also closed a $ 2million funding round led by Tennis Australia that includes support from retired stars James Blake and Andy Roddick, as well as MyFitnessPal co-founders Albert and Mike Lee, and former director. Strava financier and current Homebase Jason Liu.
At Tesla, Sahai worked on tracking objects from a single camera, even filing some patents related to the technology.
“This is where the spark came in because I was working on all of these algorithms to track pedestrians and vehicles around the car using the camera,” Sahai said. track the tennis ball? ‘ And there was basically nothing to do at the consumer level. “
Hawk-Eye has a proven track record as an appeal arbiter at the Grand Slam level, but their corporate system is too expensive even for some professional tournaments. PlaySight is more affordable for tennis clubs and college programs, but not accessible to lower levels, including the millions of amateur players.
SwingVision, which typically costs $ 149.99 per year, is successful because of its simplicity. A player simply needs to hook up an iOS device behind the baseline, at least five feet in the air, and hit save. The app can provide data like shot speed, location trends, and an accuracy score for forehands, backhands, and serves. It can measure how close a stroke is to the baseline and sidelines and calculate how far a player has traveled during a match.
One popular feature, Sahai said, is the modified playback of a match. Time spent collecting balls and drinking water is eliminated, and a two-hour game can be condensed to 20 minutes. Players can also automatically filter highlights, such as “all rallies of at least five moves”.
SwingVision is the first investment of the Wildcard Ventures fund recently launched by Tennis Australia and follows a pre-agreement to distribute the app to the association’s coaches. Tennis Australia chief innovation officer Machar Reid said players of all skill levels – from “young children to Ash Barty”, the world’s No. 1 female – can benefit. Even the pros, for example, suffer from a real lack of information and analysis not only during training but also during competitions.
“Something James told me,” Sahai said of Blake, a former world number 4, “that surprised me but made sense is [that] apart from the matches they play on center court, they have no data.
Those who wear an Apple Watch have access to additional features like a line challenge worn on the wrist, needing only one tap to view a zoomed-in slow-motion replay on the ball.
“For very close calls, it’s already more accurate than gamers because the phone is recording at 60 frames per second,” said Sahai, who is CEO of Hsu as CTO. “Typically, humans see at about 24 frames per second. So it’s seeing with better fidelity than a human can.
Sahai admits the app isn’t accurate enough to replicate Hawk-Eye Live’s real-time line-up calling for tournaments, but expects it to be there next year. He says professional linesmen have an average accuracy of 92% on shots that land within 10 centimeters of a boundary line, so the goal is to exceed that benchmark while still registering an accuracy of close to 100. % on all other shots. A live scoring app – with an automated referee announcing every point – is also in the works to bring “that Grand Slam experience” to all players, Sahai said.
“This is something that PlaySight has tried to solve in a very infrastructure-loaded way, but if you’re able to do it in a more scalable way, we’re like, damn it, you’re tackling a real problem to sports, ”said Reid.
The addition of Roddick and Blake as investors was, in part, fortuitous. Sahai played high school tennis with John Lamble, who went on to play on the ATP Tour and worked with Dr David Clarke, who developed CrampsAway – who used Blake as the face of the product. Blake invested first, then introduced the SwingVision team to Roddick at an exhibition game in Texas.
Roddick was duly impressed with the app and, Sahai said, also grateful for helping him find his phone before he had to catch a flight. Blake tried to call Roddick, but the phone was cut. Sahai then introduced him to the “Find my iPhone” function.
After picking up his device, Roddick jokingly offered a five-figure Venmo payment on the spot.
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