Next they produced the Mini, which is as discreet as a clip-on microphone and geared for people with the latest gadgetry. It’s screenless, lighter and smaller than the iTrainerPro and was originally designed to help golfers improve their putting. Like the Pro, the bluetooth-enabled Mini provides swing data but instead of displaying it on a screen, it sends it to smartphones and tablets. "We hope to appeal to two different kinds of consumers," Belbin said.
Of course, admiring the iTrainers wasn’t enough to truly understand how they work, so we adjourned to the indoor net to test them out.
I attached the Mini to a 6-iron and promptly blocked a shot into the right corner of the net. Afterwards Sparrow approached me, iPad in hand. There, in full-colour (on a very user-friendly interface), the iTrainer app had received all the data from my rusty, mid-morning swing. My swing speed was glacial, my clubface open and my shot distance, well, that’s none of your business. Still, as Sparrow swiped through the different screens, he did highlight some positives. My tempo was close to the desired ratio of 3 (backswing) to 1 (downswing) and my swing path somehow wasn’t over the top, which the iTrainer displayed via a nifty 3D simulation viewable from all angles.
I knew what almost all the data meant, but I wondered how the average weekend warrior would benefit from so much information. Would knowing how many revolutions per minute your ball spun be confusing? Too Much Information? Fortunately Belbin had a good answer. The first time he tried it, he told me he focused on just one area. "I realised my tempo was really off and as soon as I adjusted my swing I was so much better. Even if it [the iTrainer] is just for that I could use it." In other words, there’s a lot of data to choose from, but that’s okay. Golfers can pick and choose what’s best for their game.
Not to mention that despite hitting a golf ball a mere 10 feet into a net, I knew precisely how far, and in what direction, it flew. It was obvious that the device’s target market might just be people who don’t have year-round access to a driving range or who live in cold climates or space-challenged environments, like Hong Kong. "People have no idea how far they’re hitting the ball when they hit into nets," Belbin said. "Or whether it went left or right. But if somebody is hitting into a net, they’re going to get data using an iTrainer."
After the practice session we adjourned to a local Italian restaurant. Over coffee, the men told me about their future plans for the iTrainer: an interactive academy built with input from local pro, Vaughan Mason, who owns The Golf School of Hong Kong in Ma On Shan.
"The next release will be fully interactive so a pro can get players into the right positions throughout the swing," Sparrow told me.
Preliminary plans also include a subscription programme whereby users can send their swing data to coaches for analysis. They’ve also added static tips based on one’s swing flaws and have shot a number of videos which they plan to incorporate into the app. From there, users can choose one of three tips based on the flaws in their swing.
"We want to go from information to instruction to improvement," says Belbin. "It’s bridging that gap where we feel we can help the golfer."
And that’s something we can all benefit from. www.insight-sports.com
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