May 26, 2022
Swupnil Sahai and his co-founder serve an ace with AI-chosen SwingVision
The show-tracking iPhone app looks to make tennis more accessible than ever
While Swupnil Sahai did not go out on the sanctified clay at the French Open or on the pitch at Wimbledon, he owes his livelihood to tennis – a passion he traces back to his childhood.
Growing up in the Gulf Region, the CEO and co-founder of the tennis activity-tracking program SwingVision – only available in the App Store – spent much of his time on the court. An early interest aroused by his father led Sahai to play on his high school tennis team, and later the sport served as a form of tension while he attended the University of California at Berkeley.
Working as an engineer on a team that used 3D object tracking to help refine autonomous driving, Sahai – a two-time WWDC scholar – had an epiphany: The same techniques and principles he used in the work could help him rise in level. tennis court. However, the tools that were available on the market to track and analyze his game were expensive, inconvenient, and often inaccessible.
“Then you had a few companies making sensors that you could link to your rackets, and they would track some data,” Sahai elaborates. “And when it comes to using cameras, the closest thing was this 10-camera system that some high-end clubs had, but it was about $ 10,000 for a court.”
When the Apple Watch was launched in April 2015, Sahai recognized the potential of a device that would bring intelligence directly to a user’s wrist. The seed for the idea that eventually became SwingVision began to sprout.
“It simply came to my notice then. I thought, ‘If I had a computer on my wrist, I could actually analyze my shape and my strokes,’ ”he says, looking back at the opening notes he made on his iPhone.
After teaching himself how to code using Apple’s Swift programming language, Sahai enlisted the services of his college roommate and fellow tennis enthusiast, Richard Hsu. What started as a side project called Swing – released as an Apple Watch app in 2016 – has finally been transformed into a full-time endeavor, necessitating a team that has since grown to include 12 employees.
Sahai and Hsu then officially launched SwingVision in 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 like Andy Roddick and James Blake. “That was really the big difference: the machine learning that is possible,” he says.
The app recently launched a new feature that allows tennis enthusiasts to counter unlimited calls directly from their wrists using an Apple Watch. “It almost pushes the boundaries of humanity because it allows you to call lines more accurately than you could with your own eyes,” says Sahai. “All we could do about real-time video processing – get information right away, allowing users to challenge line calls right there on the court – none of that would be possible without the Neural Engine.”
The other major difference: the App Store, which highlighted SwingVision as App of the Day in 2021 and brought the app to the streams of millions of customers instantly.
“The App Store is doing a great job of creating apps that will be relevant to the customer and showing small apes, not necessarily just the big ones, ”Sahai explains. “Being featured as Apo of the Day has been huge for us, not only to generate downloads on the day of, but also to become 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 mass audience without having to spend a massive budget for marketing,” he continues. “Especially the stories about developers and applications presented on the Today tab are so powerful because they tell a deeper story that helps build branding, which is very difficult for a team of any size to accomplish.”
Today, SwingVision has more than 10,000 monthly users and counting – and there’s much more to come, thanks to ARKit, Apple’s augmented reality development framework for iOS and iPadOS mobile phones. Using ARKit, Sahai anticipates being able to add graphics directly to the court – an exciting prospect, he says, given the life-stream capabilities the company is currently working on incorporating into the app.
He imagines a future where all tennis matches are livestream by default, one in which parents who once had to miss their kids ’big matches can tune away from wherever they are, thanks to a well-positioned iPhone or iPad running SwingVision. The device could almost instantly stream video without using too much battery or sacrificing quality.
For coaches and players, a major advantage provided by SwingVision is the ability to respect and analyze a match recorded in the app on their favorite devices shortly after it ends. Currently, SwingVision is seeing a special growth in the university arena, says Sahai, with more than 30 First Division teams currently using the app and many others expected to embark this summer.
The app is also starting to reach a certain segment of professionals looking to enter the top tier of the sport: “players outside the top 200 who don’t have the million-dollar contracts or coaches who can travel with them all the time.” Sahai elaborates.
“Professionals usually have access to this data in matches they play in the stadium,” he adds, “but even if you’re a professional player like Serena Williams, the vast majority of your time playing tennis is on practice.”
The SwingVision team is also working on adding remote training to the app, creating new possibilities not tied to the boundaries of physical geography, especially for aspiring players who live in countries that don’t have head coaches nearby.
“This will make the development of tennis more accessible,” says Sahai, looking forward to the future of the sport. “That was always a problem that people perceived: the notion that you need more money to be able to play it. I think we can break that barrier. “
Katie Clark Alsadder
Apple Media Helpline