May 26, 2022
Swupnil Sahai and its co-founder serve an ace with AI-powered SwingVision
The performance tracking app for iPhone seeks to make tennis more accessible than ever
While Swupnil Sahai didn’t come to the Holy Land at the French Open or the Wimbledon grass court, she owes her support to tennis – a passion she traces back to her childhood.
Growing up in the Bay Area, the CEO and co-founder of the SwingVision tennis track app – only available on the App Store – has spent much of his time off the court. An early interest aroused by his father led Sahai to play on his high school tennis team, and eventually the sport served as a form of stress relief while attending the University of California, Berkeley.
While working as an engineer on a team that used 3D object tracking to help refine self-driving, Sahai – a two-time WWDC scholar – had an epiphany: the same techniques and principles he was using in the work could help level up on the job. tennis court. However, the tools that were available on the market to track and analyze their game were expensive, cumbersome, and often difficult to come by.
“So, you’ve got a few companies that make sensors that you can add to your rackets, and they’re going to track some data,” Sahai elaborates. “And as for the use of the rooms, the closest thing was this 10-room system that some high-end clubs had, but it was about $ 10,000 per court.”
When Apple Watch launched in April 2015, Sahai recognized the potential of a device that brings intelligence to the user’s wrist. The seed for the idea that has finally become SwingVision has begun to emerge.
“It just popped up my brain right away. I thought, ‘If I have a computer on my wrist, I could really analyze my shape and my features,'” he says, looking back at the initial notes he made on his iPhone. .
After learning to code with Apple’s Swift programming language, Sahai enlisted the services of his college roommate and fellow tennis enthusiast Richard Hsu. What started out as a side project called Swing – released as an Apple Watch app in 2016 – eventually turned into a full-time effort, requiring a team that has grown since then to include 12 employees.
Sahai and Hsu officially launched SwingVision in the App Store in November 2019, harnessing the power of Apple’s Neural Engine in iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, combined with the minds of advisors and investors such as Andy Roddick and James Blake . “That was really the big difference: the machine learning process that is possible,” he says.
The app recently launched a new feature that allows tennis fans to answer calls outside the limits directly from their wrists with Apple Watch. “It almost pushes the boundaries of humanity because it allows you to draw lines more accurately than you can with your own eyes,” says Sahai. “Everything we’ve been able to do in terms of streaming video in real time – get instant insight, which allows users to challenge line calls in court – none of this would be possible without the Neural Engine.”
The other major difference: the App Store, which ranked SwingVision as an App of the Day in 2021 and brought the app to the feeds of millions of customers instantly.
“The App Store does a good job of surface applications that will be relevant to the customer and showcasing small apps, not necessarily just the big ones, ”explains Sahai. add credibility in conversations with potential customers, investors and employees for several months afterwards. . “
“The App Store provides a platform for small teams as well as individuals to reach such a massive audience without having to spend a massive budget on marketing,” he continues. “The developer and the stories in the app presented in the Today tab in particular are so powerful because they tell a deeper story that helps build the brand, which is very difficult for a team of any size to achieve.”
Today, SwingVision has more than 10,000 monthly users and accounts – and there’s much more to come, thanks to ARKit, Apple’s augmented reality development framework for iOS and iPadOS mobile devices. Using ARKit, Sahai anticipates being able to add graphics right to the board – an exciting prospect, he says, given the live streaming capabilities the company is currently working on to incorporate into the app.
Imagine a future where all tennis matches are streamed live by default, one in which parents who once missed their children’s major games are able to tune in remotely from where they are, thanks to an iPhone or iPad well positioned with SwingVision. The device could transmit a video feed almost instantly without using too much battery or sacrificing quality.
For coaches and gamers, one major advantage that SwingVision provides is the ability to watch and analyze a game recorded in the app on their favorite devices shortly after it’s over. Currently, SwingVision is seeing particular growth in the university arena, Sahai says, with more than 30 Division I teams currently using the app and many more expected to come on board this summer.
The app is also starting to catch on with a certain segment of professionals looking to step into the top echelon of the sport: “players out of the top 200 who don’t have multi-million dollar contracts or coaches who they can travel with them all the time, ”says Sahai.
“Professionals usually have access to that data at matches played on the stadium,” he adds, “but even if you’re a professional player like Serena Williams, most of your time playing tennis. it’s a field of practice. ”
The SwingVision team is also working to add remote coaching to the app, creating new possibilities without the limitations of physical geography, especially for aspiring players living in countries that don’t have the best coaches around.
“This will make the development of tennis more accessible,” says Sahai, looking forward 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. I think we can break that barrier.”
Katie Clark Alsadder
Apple Media Helpline