BRONX, N.Y. The folks who made it possible to play golf over the Internet are planning a new game. Internet Golf Multimedia Inc. here hopes to launch next year the Java-based Internet Sports Computer (ISC), which will handle both golf and interactive sports that "volley" by recording and relaying the players' muscle contractions in real-time.
The company's original smart golf club, the Genius, enabled opponents to remotely play golf against each other on a PC by measuring their real-world performance in hitting a real ball. The ISC, by contrast, will be a freestanding, wireless unit that expands beyond golf to a more generic format capable of representing a variety of one-on-one games basketball, tennis, racket ball or even a one-on-one baseball variant that is illegal everywhere except cyberspace.
"Internet sports technologies will change the way we play together our Internet Sports Computer lets people play real games using the same skills they use on the fairway or court," said company founder Wilbert Murdock. The ISC was developed under Murdock's direction by Robert Pollock and Mohamed Aboshihata while they were engineering students at Brooklyn Polytechnic (Brooklyn, N.Y.).
By blending Java and biofeedback technologies, the company's existing Genius golf club is designed to link Internet users into a global golf competition. The ever polite game of golf, however, lets each person take a turn separately.
On the other hand, the Internet Sports Computer includes the hardware for real-time transmission of motion information in games where both players are acting simultaneously-such as tennis volleys. Sophisticated motion analysis routines are being put into a custom chip, said the company, to animate a figure on the screen. The animated figure can be used to pinpoint problems with the movements in a swing.
Where the Genius golf club uses PC software along with a couple of ASICs and an RF transceiver, the freestanding ISC has an embedded microprocessor. The smart club (or a smart racket) will communicate with the belt-pack-mounted ISC, which in turn uses a wireless communications strategy to access the Internet.
Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java technology powers the smart golf club, with all its embedded circuitry located in the club head. Software algorithms determine whether the player hit the "sweet spot" or sent the ball to the "left" or "right" of it. Java software running on the PC shows graphical representations of how much to the right or left each shot went. A speech synthesis chip then lets the smart club give immediate feedback on a swing, as well as updates on the state of the game.
For the future, the ISC will supplement its golf putter with a new driver model and a new line of wireless tennis rackets, baseball bats, basketballs and other smart sports gear. Because each device is wireless, the clubs, rackets and bats can be taken outdoors, Murdock pointed out.
"Eventually we hope to mediate not just one-to-one contests, but contests among thousands of different players worldwide," said Murdock. "The server will be Sun Jini-based, with each device using Sun's MAGC chip technology." He termed the MAGC (pronounced "magic") architecture "extremely portable and [it] scales gracefully."
Besides Sun's Java engine technology, the ISC will also lean heavily on a new motion processor chip that enables the system to analyze 3-D motion (the smart golf club by itself analyzes only two-dimensional motion).
However, development costs are likely to be steep, Murdock said. As a result, "The motion processor chip will delay introduction of the ISC until 2001, unless we get a new partner with the capital to speed up our schedule," said Murdock. But in his view, "it will be worth the wait, because the chip will analyze both two- and three-dimensional motion in real-time."
The Internet Sports Computer will make it possible for players to compete one-on-one over the Net.