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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Bourne Research > March Madness

Marlene

Abstract:
It's that time of year - March Madness is upon us - and with such high profile sports mania taking center stage for the next few weeks, I just had to see what role (if any) MEMS and nanotech might be playing.

March 18th, 2008

March Madness

March Madness is all about the annual NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship here in the United States; the tournament begins in mid-March and runs through early April.

That being said, I thought it would be timely to see if nanotechnology and/or MEMS were playing some kind of role in basketball. Sure enough, I found something pretty interesting. Leave it to engineers to not only want to calculate the probability of successfully making a free throw, but to figure out how to improve the player's odds of a successful shot.

Their approach? Embedding a MEMS sensor into the ball itself to measure the velocity and angle of each shot. In this case, a tri-axis accelerometer tracks the ball's acceleration once it leaves the player's hands - as it moves toward the hoop, a microcontroller calculates velocity. Knowing these two pieces of data, players could feasibly improve their free throw success rate by understanding an optimal initial release angle and ball speed.

This ball is real - or at least a prototype is. Researchers at Indiana University, Freescale Semiconductor and Spalding all worked together on the project and introduced the first "intelligent basketball" using the sensor back in mid 2007.

The big question is: will it ever come to market? Such a ball might be a helpful training tool for college teams, and perhaps even for professional players. I can't imagine that the average consumer wouldn't be interested too - at least those who would like to get their hands on (and apply) any technological advantage possible. Just think what this could do for you in your local neighborhood pick-up game. It certainly puts a whole new perspective on the kids (and adults) playing basketball in the driveway.

Speaking of accelerometers, in this week's radio show you'll discover what Lemurs, backpacks and MEMS have to do with each other; learn about the darkest shade of black ever; and find out how bacteria are being harnessed as a source of renewable energy.

You can listen to the entire show on www.bournereport.com or look for both the Bourne Report Podcast and Bourne Report Radio in iTunes.

This article is a transcript of the Bourne Report Podcast #86.

Want to know more? Please visit: http://www.bournereport.com

2008 Bourne Research LLC. All rights reserved.

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