May 26, 2022
Swupnil Sahai and his co-founder serve up an ace with AI-powered SwingVision
Performance-tracking iPhone app seeks to make tennis more accessible than ever
Although Swupnil Sahai hasn’t set foot on the hallowed clay of the French Open or the grass court of Wimbledon, he owes his livelihood to tennis, a passion that dates back to his childhood.
Growing up in the Bay Area, the CEO and co-founder of tennis performance tracking app SwingVision — only available on the App Store — has spent much of his time on the court. An early interest from his father led Sahai to play on his high school tennis team, and eventually the sport served as a form of stress relief while he attended the University of California, Berkeley.
While working as an engineer on a team that used 3D object tracking to help refine autonomous driving, Sahai – a two-time WWDC scholar – had a revelation: the same techniques and principles he was using in work could help him level up on the tennis court. However, the tools available on the market to track and analyze one’s game were expensive, cumbersome and often hard to find.
“At the time, you had a few companies making sensors that you could attach to your racquets, and they tracked certain data,” says Sahai. “And in terms of camera usage, the closest thing was this 10-camera system that some high-end clubs had, but it was around $10,000 a pitch.”
When launching Apple Watch in April 2015, Sahai recognized the potential for a device that would bring intelligence directly to the wearer’s wrist. The seed of the idea that eventually became SwingVision began to sprout.
“It triggered my brain right away. I thought: “If I have a computer on my wrist, I could really analyze my form and my shots,” he said, reviewing the first notes he took on his iPhone.
After learning to code using Apple’s Swift programming language, Sahai enlisted the services of her college roommate and tennis enthusiast, Richard Hsu. What started as a side project called Swing – released as an Apple Watch app in 2016 – eventually turned into a full-time business, requiring a team that has since grown to include 12 employees.
Sahai and Hsu then officially launched SwingVision on the App Store in November 2019, harnessing the power of Apple’s Neural Engine on iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, combined with the minds of advisors and investors such as Andy Roddick and James Blake. “That’s really the big difference: the machine learning processing that’s possible,” he says.
The app recently launched a new feature that allows tennis fans to challenge out-of-bounds calls right from their wrist using Apple Watch. “It almost pushes the limits of humanity because it allows you to call lines more accurately than you could with your own eyes,” says Sahai. “Everything we’ve been able to do in terms of real-time video processing – getting information immediately, allowing users to challenge line calls directly in the field – none of this would be possible without the Neural Engine.”
The other major difference: the App Store, which named SwingVision app of the day in 2021 and instantly put the app on the feeds of millions of customers.
“The App Store does a good job of surface apps that will be relevant to the customer and presenting small applications, not necessarily just the big ones,” says Sahai. “Being featured as App of the Day has been great for us, not only driving same-day downloads, but also becoming a badge of approval that continues to add credibility in conversations with potential customers, investors and employees for several months afterwards.”
“The App Store provides a platform for small teams and even individuals to reach such a massive audience without having to spend a huge budget on marketing,” he continues. “The developer and app stories featured in the Today tab in particular are so powerful because they tell a deeper story that helps build brand image, which is very difficult for a team of any size to accomplish. cut.”
Today, SwingVision has over 10,000 monthly users and counting – and there’s plenty more to come, thanks to ARKit, Apple’s augmented reality development framework for iOS and iPadOS mobile devices. By using ARKit, Sahai plans to be able to add graphics directly to the field — an exciting prospect, he says, given the live streaming capabilities the company is currently working to integrate into the app.
He imagines a future where all tennis matches are broadcast live by default, a future in which parents who once had to miss their children’s big matches can tune in remotely wherever they are, using an iPhone or a well positioned iPad running SwingVision. The device could transmit a video stream almost instantly without using too much battery or sacrificing quality.
For coaches and players, a major benefit of SwingVision is the ability to review and analyze a match recorded in the app on their favorite devices soon after it is completed. Right now, SwingVision is seeing particular growth in the college arena, Sahai says, with more than 30 Division I teams currently using the app and many more expected to join this summer.
The app is also beginning to catch on with a certain segment of professionals looking to break into the upper echelon of the sport: “players outside of the top 200 who don’t have the million-dollar contracts or trainers who can travel with them all the time,” says Sahai.
“The pros usually have access to this data during the matches they play in the stadium,” he adds, “but even if you are a professional player like Serena Williams, the vast majority of your time playing tennis takes place on a training ground.”
The SwingVision team is also working on adding remote coaching to the app, creating new possibilities unbound by the limitations of physical geography, especially for aspiring gamers who live in countries that don’t have not the best coaches nearby.
“It will make tennis development more accessible,” Sahai says, looking to the future of the sport. “It’s always been a problem that people have perceived: the idea that you need more money to be able to play it. I think we will be able to break this barrier.
Katie Clark Alsadder
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