The ball don’t lie—those were the first words I first took note of while unpacking the 94Fifty smart sensor basketball ($249). The premise is simple: 94Fifty’s smart sensor basketball provides players and coaches with immediate feedback in a few crucial areas of performance in order to help them improve their game. The ball itself is regulation size and weight and bounces and spins like a pro would expect. It’s ultra-durable indoor/outdoor skin means you can take it to any court and get maximum performance.
The ball tracks four important metrics:
- Dribble force/speed
- Shot speed
- Shot backspin
- Shot arc
The included tech: Bluetooth to wirelessly communicate with your phone or tablet (range of up to 90 feet) and an 8 hour rechargeable battery. The ball works in conjunction with an app that displays results on the fly. What’s cool is that you can upgrade the balls sensors as new abilities becomes available.
Here’s the bottom line. After a few hours of playing around with the 94Fifty smart basketball, my shot had improved noticeably from the last time I was on the court.
The app is where the rubber really meets the road (or asphalt or gym floor, in this case). Users can setup an account and track their progress. Users can also track the progress of up to four friends or teammates. Additionally, there’s the ability to track a guest (perfect for a head to head matchup, though the guests info won’t be saved for later).
At a glance the app will show you the total number of dribbles and total number of shots since activating and pairing the ball. This is a good way to help people build up the notion of accomplishment over time.
The app’s main menu gives you 7 options: my dashboard, workout, head to head, skill training, social challenge, player settings and ball settings. Workout is probably where most users will spend the bulk of their time. Head to head mode it great for a bit of competition. For instance, Free Throw King will pit players against each other to see who is more accurate and who has the most perfect arc out of 10 free throws.
The built in social component is a nice way to connect with other players not in your physical location via video or tweet.
So how does the ball work live and in-person? Well, pretty much like you’d think, although I did have to get used to the way the ball expected to be used in order to record things accurately. For instance, during a game of Free Throw King with another player, I learned that you can’t lob the ball back to the shooter—if you do it will count as a shot because the ball thinks it’s headed to the basket. In this situation you’ve got to use a chest pass to return the ball.
I love the hands-free aspect of the app. When shooting the app actually talks to you to let you know how your last shot went so you can immediately adjust. This function turned a number of heads around the court as people were interested in what the heck was going on.
Here’s the bottom line. After a few hours of playing around with the 94Fifty smart basketball, my shot had improved noticeably from the last time I was on the court. This ball is in no way a gimmick—it really does help you improve your game. Would I recommend this ball to a player looking to get better? In a heartbeat.