You’ve never played basketball like this. In 2023, the app fitness world will feature the digitally connected Huupe, adding one more sport to e-interactive workouts that include the Peloton app and Zwift e-cycling. This e-sport, however, required rigorous testing for the physical abuse that its smart backboard takes when in use.
“Yeah, (there’s been) a lot of testing durability in the last three years,” co-founder Paul Anton said.
“We also had to figure out dunking, so people could dunk on those as well,” co-founder Lyth Saeed said.
Fortunately, the pair had a lifetime of basketball experience and a number of excited fans on hand (including former NBA players) willing to contribute to several years of experimentation to make Huupe a reality. Hence, the founders knew where to mount the rim.
“It’s a problem that had to be solved in the 1980s and 1990s when players were breaking glass all the time,” Anton said. “The basketball world actually figured that out before we did. They realized that the rim had to be connected to the pole and not the glass.”
Huupe’s development is now in its final stages: investment and production. Partnering with global sports and entertainment agency Paradigm Sports, Huupe will proffer a “revolutionary basketball technology platform” — the world’s first smart basketball hoop. With the screen doubling as the backboard, Huupe technology allows players to train like a pro, track their performance, and compete against other connected basketball players anywhere in the world. Sculpting a globally connected, user-friendly streamlined machine from a nebulous idea was a feat investors couldn’t ignore.
“Huupe has done an impressive job of distilling complex engineering down into a product that’s simple and intuitive for users, present(ing) the potential to radically reshape how athletes and fans interact and engage through a sport they love,” Paradigm Sports’ investment founder and CEO Audie Attar said in a press release.
The beginning of August completed the first round of seed funding for the platform. In the interim, Huupe is previewing its smart backboards and basketball hoop setups for the public with plans to release sometime next year.
“Earlier this year, we decided to start posting videos on social media of what we’ve been up,” Anton said. “We realized we can’t be in stealth mode forever.”
‘Stealth mode’ relates to the many, many hours put in to develop Huupe’s machine learning and computer vision capabilities, constructing an AI that helps train basketball players.
“We shot over 100,000 shots ourselves for this algorithm,” Anton said. “That first year was a lot about data collection. We had my little brother, all his friends, all of our friends, family, all types of different people shooting. It was really important to get different categories of people.”
With cameras taking in data, Huupe founders brought in men and women of all “races, creeds, colors,” trying not to leave anyone out of data collection. They practiced shooting banks, swishes, air balls, right-handed shooting and left-handed. Anton’s teenage brother and his friends would spend hours playing and throwing up different random shots.
“We also had to move the hoop into different locations for different lighting conditions — day versus night, shadows… “ Saeed said. “We put the hoop on the back of a truck and just drove it around to different locations to collect that data.”
They even had to teach Huupe the difference between round heads and round balls.
“The first time we had a seven-footer shoot on it, (Huupe) recognized his head as a basketball. We realized we had to get more tall people in our datasets,” Anton said.
If the first year was about testing, the second was about how to engage people with Huupe. The elegant solution was to simply enmesh basketball’s natural statistical competitiveness.
“Gamification just wants you to play more,” Anton said. “It’s this trigger in your brain that makes you want to improve from the spots that you’re not doing well. We had a couple of NBA players stay in our gym for three hours, just trying to beat all the high scores.”
Huupe tracks your stats and shows you where you can improve. The platform, for example, showed that Anton struggled from the left side of the court, which enabled him to work on a particular skill he did not even realize needed honing.
Via a $29.99 per month subscription fee, Huupe players will not only be able to access weaknesses and trends in a player’s game, but they will also be able to view stats at the end of every session. Connected by wifi, Huupe players can choose to play games like HORSE and other recreational competitions, either with friends or random fellow players across the world. They’ll also get access to dozens of training videos, running from beginner fundamentals to elite training drills. There will even be a host of live trainers that subscribers can schedule private screen sessions with.
“You connect from your phone, and you can also just do a quick game,” Anton said. “You can activate it with a hand gesture — wave at the hoop and it starts a quick start where you’ll just be tracking makes and misses.”
Partners plan to retail the Huupe setup for $4,000.
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