Soon it won't just be the brains behind football that matter, it will be the brains inside the football that will help with training. Adidas is to introduce the miCoach Smart Ball in 2014, a football that can measure the speed, spin and trajectory of each kick and then feed the information back to an iOS device via Bluetooth after each strike.
Pocket-lint was on hand at a pop-up one-day Adidas Lab event in central London where we were able to see the technology in action and have a play ourselves.
From the outside the Smart Ball is just like a normal one, which is a good thing: the very same long-lasting build means this ball can be pelted around like any decent standard football. We chatted to the designers to get the lowdown on what makes the miCoach Smart Ball different, and the answer is twofold: the interior contains a special spring-mounted sensor to the very centre that takes command of the measurements, while the exterior has green zone markings to assist with where to kick the ball to generate the desired results.
There's also an iOS app for iPhone or iPad - no other versions are available as yet, so it's Apple only for the time being - which then receives the data directly back from the synched ball via Bluetooth 4.0. We believe there will be a distance limitation to how far the signal will be received, but within the demo area - a giant wall complete with a Tron-esque futuristic projection - that wasn't something we saw falter.
For measurements to complete, the ball has to be kicked 10-metres minimum, so the set-up is well designed for on-goal targeting, penalty practice and power improvements. Within the app it's possible to choose different training programmes. There's Kick It for a casual session; Get Better is divided into learn and train categories; and Challenges offers power, pro and free kick challenges.
Here's where the Smart Ball's exterior marking's come into play. When learning how to curve that ball, the app can instruct where and how your foot should strike in order to get the desired result. If it's training you want to do then the measurements are relayed back to the app after each kick - here showing a 51mph strike, for example.
But the data can be dealt with in cooler ways too. The trajectory can be mapped out so you can see exactly where the ball has travelled, and this can be zoomed in via a two-finger pinch on the Apple device's screen and even rotated as a 3D model to get an in-depth look at what's going on.
Or you can just keep on kicking that ball against a wall until you have achieved your power goal - the choice is yours.
As the Smart Ball depends on a sensor, it also needs power. Included is a cradle that automatically puts the ball on charge, as shown by light-up green lights. Battery life isn't something that Adidas has disclosed in full, but the designers told us a full day's non-stop play ought to sail by without any issues. If power runs out you'll soon know: the ball won't relay info back to the iOS app.
No word on price or exact release date, all we know is that the miCoach Smart Ball is clever stuff and will be available some time in 2014.