May 26, 2022
Swupnil Sahai and his co-founder serve an ace with AI-powered SwingVision
Performance-tracking iPhone app seeks to make tennis more accessible than ever
While Swupnil Sahai hasn’t stepped foot on the hallowed clay at the French Open or the grass court at 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, spent much of his time on the court. An early interest fueled 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 he attended the University of California, Berkeley.
While working as an engineer on a team using 3D object tracking to help refine autonomous driving, Sahai, a two-time WWDC fellow, had an epiphany: The same techniques and principles he was using at work could help him climb the ladder. level on the tennis court. However, the tools that were available on the market to track and analyze his game were expensive, cumbersome, and often hard to come by.
“Back then, there were some companies that made sensors that you could attach to your rackets and track some data,” Sahai explains. “And in terms of camera usage, the closest thing was this 10-camera system that some high-end clubs had, but it was about $10,000 per court.”
When the Apple Watch launched 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.
“That woke up my brain right away. I thought, ‘If I have a computer on my wrist, I could analyze my shape and strokes,’” she says, looking back at the initial notes he took on his iPhone.
After teaching himself to code with 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, eventually morphed into a full-time effort, 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 like Andy Roddick and James Blake. “That’s really been the big difference: the machine learning processing that’s possible,” he says.
The app recently launched a new feature that allows tennis enthusiasts to play out-of-bounds calls directly from their wrists using Apple Watch. “It’s almost pushing the limits of humanity because it allows you to draw lines more precisely than you could with your own eyes,” says Sahai. “Anything we’ve been able to do in terms of real-time video processing — getting feedback right away, letting users challenge line calls right there on the pitch — none of that would be possible without the Neural Engine.”
The other big difference: the app store, which featured SwingVision as the 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 showing apps that are going to be relevant to the customer Y showing small apps, not necessarily just the big ones,” explains Sahai. “Being featured as the app of the day has been fantastic for us, not only driving downloads on the day, but also becoming a badge of approval that continues to add credibility in conversations with potential customers, investors and employees for several months afterward. .”
“The App Store provides a platform for small teams and even individuals to reach such a massive audience without spending a huge marketing budget,” he continues. “Developer and app stories that appear on the Today tab in particular are very powerful because they tell a deeper story that helps build brand, which is very difficult for a team of any size to do.”
Today, SwingVision has over 10,000 monthly users and growing, with much more to come, thanks to ARKit, Apple’s augmented reality development framework for iOS and iPadOS mobile devices. With ARKit, Sahai anticipates being able to add graphics directly to the pitch, an exciting prospect, he says, given the live streaming capabilities the company is currently working to bring to the app.
He envisions a future where all tennis matches are broadcast live by default, one where parents who once had to miss their kids’ big matches can tune in remotely from anywhere, thanks to a Well positioned iPhone or iPad running SwingVision. The device could almost instantly transmit a video signal without using too much battery or sacrificing quality.
For coaches and players, a big advantage that SwingVision offers is the ability to rewatch and analyze a game recorded in the app on your favorite devices shortly after it ends. SwingVision is currently experiencing particular growth at the college level, 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 starting to catch the attention of a certain segment of professionals looking to break into the upper echelon of the sport: “players outside the top 200 who don’t have million-dollar contracts or coaches who can travel with them all the time.” . Sahai explains.
“Professionals often 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 spent on a practice court.” .
The SwingVision team is also working to add remote coaching to the app, creating new possibilities that aren’t constrained by physical geography, especially for aspiring players who live in countries that don’t have top coaches nearby.
“This will make tennis development more accessible,” says Sahai, looking to the future of the sport. “That has always been a problem that people have perceived: the notion that you need more money to be able to play. I think we will be able to break that barrier.”
Katie Clark Alsadder
Apple Media Helpline