The first offering from Diamond Kinetics, the SwingTracker, is currently available for purchase with an expected ship date around Dec. 1.
Like other similar devices, the SwingTracker device is attached to the knob of the bat using a flexible strap. The device, weighing around half an ounce, contains a triaxial accelerometer and a triaxial gyroscope that sample swing data at 1600 Hz. Some basic processing of these data points is performed on an onboard DSP chip, then transmitted to an iPad or iPhone via Bluetooth. On board the mobile device, a physics engine in the Diamond Kinetics app computes metrics that describe the swing. The raw data are uploaded to a cloud server for storage and web access, allowing coaches and players to break down swings in more detail than would be possible on the mobile platform.
The app that will control this data collection has been approved by iTunes' App Store and is currently available for download; the company is still developing an app for Android devices. Diamond Kinetics included some sample data with the app, allowing prospective users to get a sense of what to expect when they receive their sensors.
The app tracks eleven metrics across four broad categories – bat and hand speed; quickness, or time to impact; power, or momentum generated; and control of the bat during the swing. A graphical summary lets users compare their swing to those players at a similar skill level at a glance across all four categories. The app also generates a three-dimensional animation for each swing, allowing players to break down their swing frame by frame from all angles. Users can also use the app to record video of their swings. The swings are recorded using the iPhone or iPad camera and are automatically paired with the swing data.
SwingTracker gives its users far more data than other currently available apps, but founder Buddy Clark wasn't worried about overwhelming users.
"It's no different with the app than it ever was," Clark said. "Any time you work with someone, they give you all kinds of advice. And players can't think about all those things when they're [at the plate]. Our app gives coaches quantifiable things to track to help the players they're working with to get better."
"The primary reason for Diamond Kinetics is to roll up fairly complicated metrics into something intuitive to every player," chief commercial officer Jeff Schuldt said. He described the app's power metrics -- which he called "the most challenging" -- by referencing different types of cars.
"So for acceleration, it's about getting up to speed: Would you rather have a sports car or a dump truck?" Schuldt said. "But then, if you have to run into a brick wall, you'd rather have the dump truck. That's impact. Even a nine-year-old, when you explain it that way, goes, 'Oh, now I understand.'"
Schuldt said Diamond Kinetics differentiates itself by its focus on baseball and softball.
"We're an inch wide and a mile deep, but that's the same approach our players and coaches take," he said.
Clark, who is also a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said the inconsistency of the players made the accuracy of the device hard to pin down. But Clark's team used a robotic hitting device paired with an optical encoder and a motion capture system to get a sense of the SwingTracker's accuracy.
"The velocity is accurate to within 1 to 3 miles per hour, or about one to five percent," Clark said. "And the position is accurate to within less than an inch in certain areas, up to several inches depending on what you're measuring."
Schuldt said the response from amateur players has been positive and that the company was in "ongoing conversations" with professional hitters. Both Clark and Schuldt agreed their device's future depends on its adoption.
"The adoption of the technology is still in its infancy," Schuldt said, "but with better adoption, we'll see more coach and player-centric tools."
"There will be advances in the devices: smaller, faster, better range, more accuracy," Clark said. "As the devices become more integrated, players are going to be less thoughtful about it."
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Bryan Cole is a featured writer for Beyond the Box Score. He was in no way compensated by, nor does he endorse, any of the companies or products mentioned above. You can follow him on Twitter at @Doctor_Bryan.