Intro to the Ropeit Pro

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The Ropeit Pro Blog sat down with Co-Founder, Louis Girifalco, to get the scoop on the Ropeit Pro.

The RopeIt Blog: So, Louis, what is the Ropeit Pro?
Louis: The Ropeit Pro is a simple piece of hardware that is an accessory to the Ropeit. It houses an accelerometer and bluetooth transmitter to give feedback on your shot after hitting the Ropeit.

The RopeIt Blog: So is this something that you can add to old RopeIt or is this something that is part of a new product design?
Louis: Previous customers will be able to add this to their products that they previously purchased. The final design isn't entirely finished yet so I don't want to definitely say that is the case but that is where we are headed.

The RopeIt Blog: Is this something you've had in mind for the product roadmap or has it come out of customer feedback?
Louis: This is something where a fan generated the concept and we thought it was a great idea and there was a lot of excitement for it so we made a time investment to make it happen. It was not something that we planned in the beginning during the conception of the company.

The RopeIt Blog: What kind of impact from the customer's perspective will there be? How is it going to add value to my life as a RopeIt user?
Louis: Right now when you take a shot with the RopeIt, you take a shot and take note in your mind, but with the RopeIt pro there will be an actual log of what you did shot for shot and by having that data over time you now can analyze your progress more than just looking back on what your session was like.

The RopeIt Blog: What data does the RopeIt Pro collect? Is it hardware, and is it tied to an app?
Louis: Right now we only have the hardware and it spits out three numbers based on how much the weight moves - back and forth, left and right, and it tilts up and down. Those three numbers combined should give us a trajectory for where the ball went but if that is not possible then we should be able to come up with a basic percentage score of how good the shot was using those three numbers combined to come up with some type of positive output. So after the hardware is completed this semester when the University of Delaware’s engineering team is finished we plan to create an application that communicates with the data.

The RopeIt Blog: So in the short term you're going to have a computer or laptop taking notes and it will go over bluetooth?
Louis: It is going to be bluetooth transmitted from the accelerometer back to the computer and what we are going to do with the data once it is sent back to the computer we are not sure yet. We need computer science engineers to get in and do that. That is the next phase of this product.

The RopeIt Blog: When will you be able to give the RopeIt community a visual demo of what that data looks like?
Louis: We've had a prototype since last may that can show that type of feedback visually. It is a simple graph that shows three lines - left and right, up and down, in and out - in red, blue and green, and you can see what the different values can be based on this little graph but it is kind of hard to comprehend what it means unless you have someone there to explain it in a couple sentences. We can do a preliminary video currently but it is a little hard to understand. We may have something by December or January.

The RopeIt Blog: What are the final things going on in the lab? How are you guys testing this?
Louis: Right now we are comparing shot data between a golf ball flying independently and then immediately afterwards flying with the Ropeit attached to it and then measuring how the prototype outputs data and comparing the two shots to each other and to do that we are using pretty much a giant glorified potato launcher so it is a pretty cool device that is made of PVC piping. We shoot compressed air in to it to pressurize the barrel and pull the trigger and it fires the RopeIt Golf ball in to the distance. It makes a cool sound and fires off. It's pretty exciting and fun. That is one of the best things in the lab.

The RopeIt Blog: And where is the lab?
Louis: It is on the University of Delaware’s campus right in the middle of the engineering department. It is the senior design studio for the students. We have a pretty extensive toolbox to work from out of there.

The RopeIt Blog: Tell me about who is on the team? Who do you have working on this project?
Louis: There is a pretty wide array of personnel on the team. We have some older students who are going back to school. We also have some younger students, but they are all seniors right now and they have a wide background. We have biomedical students who analyze what the user is actually doing before the shot is even taken - before the ball flies off of the club face - and then we have engineering students who are trying to determine what the feedback we get from the hardware truly means and testing if it syncs with what the user did before taking the shot. Pretty diverse team. It is really exciting.

The RopeIt Blog:And there is presumably oversight from faculty members?
Louis: Yeah, there is Jennifer Buckley who is heading the whole project. She is overseeing what the students are doing and giving them a lot of autonomy in terms of where things are headed but she has got a great technical background and she's got a computer science background too so she understands the software development which will be the next stage of the product development.

The RopeIt Blog: Can you go out a couple of months from now and talk about what your vision is for what you can do with the data?
Louis: Yeah, one of the features we're excited about is gamification and using it through social networks like facebook. We've thought of ways we can use the data to visually show where the ball would go and it's trajectory and subsequently make a game out of it so someone on the East Coast can play someone on the West Coast in a golf game and display the score on Facebook or Twitter. So that is one of the exciting things we want to do. Another is to create a log of what your practice session are like and allow you to look back and review your session with the RopeIt. You can analyze what your shot is and output it to an excel spreadsheet, allowing people to create a simple database of their practice sessions and use the data in an interesting way that we may not even foresee currently.

The RopeIt Blog: Could you put something in a ball to allow you to play a full game?
Louis: Some of our early prototyping designs include putting an RFID chip in the ball and that would figure out a way to figure out where the ball flies. That is out of our scope so we moved away but it is something we started with.

The RopeIt Blog: Can you tell me about the genesis of this product? I heard that it was a bottom up design from customer feedback.
Louis: Yeah, there was a student who heard about our product through a UD magazine and he was a golfer, in mechanical engineering, and was interested in taking RopeIt to a more technology-based platform. We had an application on the iTunes App Store already and he thought that instead of manually entering your data (which is currently how this software functions), you select your shot score between 1-5 and is just a simple way of determining how your shot was based on your visual feedback." He thought that we should create hardware that can give us a real number that is based in reality - based on hard facts - not just your impression of the shot.

The RopeIt Blog: And he took that and went where with it?
Louis: He started an independent study project in the winter session of 2012-2013 and built the prototype out of simple components. He took commoditized inputs that sit on a simple motherboard that he built singlehandedly and gave the current engineering team a really solid foundation to start.

The RopeIt Blog: Is he a part of the team now?
Louis: Yeah, he is not so much leading the team but more so a liaison between the team and the RopeIt golf management.

The RopeIt Blog: Is there a bigger trend in sports performance that this ties in to? Are you leading the way or responding? What is your sense with technology and mobile and GPS are going?
Louis: Yeah I don't think that we were looking to be revolutionaries in the sports technology world. This is more something that organically came from someone that was interested with the product but there is definitely a movement that is getting feedback from real life and getting quantitative data that is valuable to the user after they take their shot. This is something that a lot of people are trying to do and we don't mean to be authorities in the space but we are definitely jumping on the train that is heading somewhere.

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