Ping-pong or table tennis originated in Victorian England, first as an after-dinner pastime for the upper class and then for British military officers assigned in India. Since the game became an Olympic sport in 1988, people have been trying to perfect their stroke or ball-spinning technique. Fast forward to the present, where German designer Thomas Mayer is helping players master the art of ping-pong with his interactive user interface called Table Tennis Trainer.
The technology helps improve a player’s game by projecting visuals directly onto a ping-pong table during play. There are various modes that can be chosen, from practising one’s serve to tracking the ball’s movement. The various moving graphics light up the table to create a visual record and realtime analysis of a game. The interface includes a dashboard for each player, which displays important data that measures the performance and progress of an individual’s game. Best scores and helpful facts are also features one will find in the dashboard.
Although interactive technology is not new, it’s application in sport is an interesting field of experimentation.
On his website, Mayer reveals that the basic motive behind Table Tennis Trainer, which is in fact his bachelor thesis, “was to track the ping-pong ball in realtime to create data visualisations for trainers and players.” The project and in particular, building the user interface took a good couple of weeks to develop but the designer feels that the end result can significantly alter how the game is played. “By projecting game obstacles on the surface I figured out that I can change the game play totally,” says Mayer.