Monday, November 19, 2012

how to make watching table tennis in TV really awesome

Unless you're living under a rock, you know all the good matches around the world are transmitted live in the ITTF homepage (terrible quality, by the way) or posted short after in YouTube.

You probably also know the reason why the ball size was increased from 38 to 40 mm was because the ITTF wants table tennis to be easier to follow on video. Also, matches were shortened to 11 points and 2 un-hidden serves per person to accommodate short attention spans and reduce the difficulty of following the game.

Ping Pong (or table tennis) is fast, tactical, and complex. Each paddle motion imparts both directional momentum and rotational speed, not in 8 directions but in all possible combinations of a sphere (360° by 360°!). Reading spin is one of the most important aspects of the game and very difficult to grasp unless you play the sport.

What I want in TV broadcasting (and possibly in game screens for the live public) is a ball that has sensors (or from which data can be measured with optics) and transmits the information so that every stroke has its spin and speed recorded. A minuscule sensor on top of each player's blade could also be used to measure the stroke speed and angle shift.

In real time, I would love to see a live data, in the lower right corner of the screen, telling me the amount of spin and its direction on the ball, and the force applied by the paddle at the moment of contact. This would give fans who play the sport all sorts of insights into how the pro's play and their capabilities and strategies.

Can you imagine? Almost overnight, you would know who has the spiniest and most powerful shots and serves. It would revolutionize the sport for spectators forever - you would know exactly what happened and why, or could deduce it with some time.

I know technology isn't ready for this - but it will be someday. I'm sure within my lifetime.