After a year of development, Taiwan’s Jingle is ready to unveil the very first "smart baseball" to the world in a product called Strike.
This breakthrough product is a specially-designed baseball that uses a Bluetooth connection to communicate to a cell phone app, allowing one to track the speed, trajectory, rotation and spin of the baseball every time it is thrown.
The project is currently in the Kickstarter phase, and the team is looking forward to mass production soon.
The company’s innovation is revolutionary in that it can bring the cost of the product to below US$100.
Previously, tracking these analytics for a baseball could only be done using high-tech radar systems, and was only available to professional ball clubs who could afford the tens of thousands of dollars needed to purchase these systems.
Strike aims to train the next generation of ballplayers, providing important data for pitchers which can be mapped to create a 3D flight trajectory.
Initial testing has already been carried out with pitcher Chen Kuan-yu of the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
This “smart baseball” is virtually identical to baseballs used in professional leagues around the world, with high quality leather and virtually no difference in size and weight.
Naturally, there were many obstacles for the company to overcome when it came to bringing this technology to the masses.
These issues were tackled in the development phase and have been overcome.
For example, using Strike is as simple as giving the ball a simple shake.
A built-in gyroscope then activates a Bluetooth connection which can transmit ball information.
The data is sent directly to an app and turned into user-friendly charts which can be stored.
Users can review their pitch history and adjust their pitching technique to improve performance.
The data can also be used by coaches and scouts for training and recruiting purposes.
The smart baseball is simple to use and provides a wealth of analytic data. It’s also part of a larger trend of toward more smart athletic products entering the market, including smart basketballs by Wilson and smart soccer balls from Adidas.
Developing a smart baseball was relatively more difficult, as the ball is a solid and not inflatable like many other balls, with the former providing less protection.
Furthermore, a baseball needs to engage in high-speed flight, with the smart baseball having to withstand speeds of up to 162 km/hour. Solving the issue of how to protect the smart baseball’s internal components was a major technical success for Jingle.
Another technical issue was charging the baseball. The task was more difficult because the baseball has to be the same weight, dimensions, and texture of other baseballs, making external charging impossible.
Jingle’s tech team worked to develop a wireless charging system with a limited transmission distance. This challenge was solved in the product’s sixth generation, and this opened the door to mass production.
Jingle has not yet finalized any production-related investments in Taiwan, but it has an eight-member development team that continues to work to improve the product and enlist athletes as a way to enhance the product’s profile.
The company aims not only for Strike to be the national ball of Taiwan, but also for it to attract the attention of many domestic and international baseball teams.
To help improve Strike, Jingle has enlisted former US Major Leaguer Alfredo Francisco as a consultant.
Jingle says a number of US and Japanese professional teams, scouts, and players have discussed opportunities for cooperation.
More interaction with the sport has taught the company to differentiate its app into a consumer and a professional version.
The competitive nature of many leagues and tournaments necessitates different databases for information, along with customized interfaces.
One of the company’s most important future goals is to accumulate a large base of pitching data in order to develop a more complete software algorithm.
This is one reason the company opted for a Kickstarter fundraising campaign, as this would help it gain access to a large number of small- and medium-sized teams in the US.
This, in turn, will help provide more complete data feedback.
Jingle plans to continue to develop local connections, including working with many different leagues and teams in Taiwan.
The company stressed that in addition to manufacturing its product in Taiwan, the company hopes to have many local players use their product, thus fulfilling the company’s entrepreneurial dream while also creating a niche for itself in the international sports industry.