For $295, this basketball will tell you that your jump shot stinks

November 26, 2013

(Courtesy of InfoMotion Sports Technologies)

You’re going to want an amazing Black Friday deal for this to be a realistic purchase.

The 94Fifty is a $295 basketball including sensors and a Bluetooth chip to communicate with an app that runs on your iPhone. The idea is to better track a player’s performance and better develop their skills.

Sensors and powerful chips are appearing in more and more objects, bringing the marvels of modern technology to everyday objects such as smoke detectors, soccer balls and thermometers. 94Fifty attempts to tap into this trend, but doesn’t quite succeed.

Lauren Goode reviewed the ball for AllThingsD and found some shortcomings:

My second reaction was disappointment that this high-tech ball doesn’t give you a broad snapshot of how you’re doing in a game of pickup or one-on-one. So you can’t just play for 20 or 30 minutes and then grab your smartphone and have the app tell you something useful. It’s very drills-focused. It also doesn’t track how many shots you’ve made….

The ball only registers that you’re shooting after you’ve received a chest pass. If you don’t have anyone to chest-pass to you, you have to spin the ball in the air to simulate a chest pass. This is fine when you’re shooting free throws, but can feel a little awkward when you’re coming off the move to fire up a 20-footer.

Drills are about simulating the experience of what you’ll do during a game. Spinning the ball before a jump shot? Not so much. It’s disappointing, too, that you’ll have to track and enter your own makes and misses. And 94Fifty doesn’t work with Android phones yet. Given the price tag and limited features the ball doesn’t make a lot of sense for an average recreational player.

For high school, AAU and college teams with larger budgets, the ball is more reasonable. But the feedback it generates (dribbling speed/force, shot speed, shot backspin and shot arc) can be provided by a qualified instructor, which these teams already have.

The 94Fifty is a cool idea, and it’s impressive that the added sensors haven’t made the ball too heavy. With more features and a lower price tag, it could make sense for more players. But the basketball, hyped by its makers as “The Ultimate Holiday Gift,” is anything but.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland · November 26, 2013