Spark - Play

Using technology to track and encourage kids to do outdoor activities and unlock screentime

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We developed the physical technology and firmware from early prototypes to the final manufacturing ready release. 

Designed to be housed in a Rugby Ball, we had to work out how to make quite a lot of complicated hardware fit in a really small space, be light enough so every kick wasn’t wonky and be durable enough to survive an 8 year old. 

We didn’t want activity to just equal movement on the ball. That would have been too easy. Instead we decided on packing as many features into the product to ultimately make it more fun and save development costs in the future. 

Weighing in at a svelte 19 grams the device has;

  • Lots of impact protection, able to survive a battering from our in-house semi-professional rugby player (also our firmware developer)
  • Up to 10 days of standby battery
  • Wireless charging
  • Enough processing power to enable machine learning on the edge. This means new skills can be ‘learnt’ by the ball
  • Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity
  • A lot of memory 
Testing Jig
The Production Line

We used machine learning to analyse various movement patterns. Currently the ball can accurately detect running, drop kicks, punts, spin passes, bad spin passes, float passes, airtime, grubbers, place kicks and sitting still (a surprisingly important feature for maximum battery life). 

This hardware allowed for the device to be sealed in the ball permanently and still receive new feature via over-the-air updates via a phone. There is enough memory to store activity and skills achieved for even the most enthusiastic outdoors-y child. 

To complement the device hardware, we developed easy to use libraries for iOS and Android so the front end developers could easily extract whatever features they required. The bluetooth streaming also allows live streaming of skills data if required for future applications.

For mass production we developed moulds and a production testing process. Diagnostic software allows the circuit board manufacturer to check the assembly and functionality of each board before it gets stitched rather permanently into the ball. 

Gilbert worked closely with us to design a soft housing to hold the electronics in place between the bladder and the skin of the ball. The electronics are mounted directly opposite the filling valve to maintain the ball's balance. 

We love playing with it and at least one of us has a perfect spin pass. So far we’ve earned about 2080 hrs of screen time….we’d better get back to work.