Video review of the app
What The App Intends To Do
Through grading users penalty kicks with FIFA like stat ratings, myKicks aspires to simplify comparing shooting ability and facilitating fan engagement. At the heart of their approach is a free to download augmented reality iOS app in where a regular soccer ball is turned into a ‘smart’ ball. Users take real-world penalty shots towards a virtual goal in where they are graded based on ball speed and placement. High placement scores are given to areas difficult for a real-world keeper to save such as the corners and a score of 0 is given if the shot is off target. It is important to note these shots are taken at an open goal with no keeper present.
Each penalty is graded on the probability of that shot going in past a professional goalkeeper which is known as a penalty conversion rate (PCR). This is dictated by the balls speed and placement of the kick which is then compared to a database of past professional kicks. It is the average score of the users’ kicks which constitutes shooting ability. What myKicks has done with those ratings is ambitious, to say the least
Comparing Your Shooting With The Pros
Not only can compare your ratings with friends and other actual users around the world, but the developers have also gone a step further. They propose those same PCR scores can be used to compare your shooting ability with your favourite professionals like Ronaldo, Messi and Zlatan. As sceptical as you may be of their claim, they ensure that the algorithm is well crafted and makes use of over 10000 penalties taken across the world’s top leagues. They also claim it has a 5- 7% error in predicting penalty success.
Though much research has gone into developing the PCR scoring system it would have been good for further consideration to be given to the difference in kicking environment. Where you may be kicking in the comfort of your local park, the pros took theirs, with raging crowds and immense pressure trying to outsmart top goalkeepers. This limits the effectiveness of using a PCR to directly compare your ability with your favourite professionals.
Much thought has been put into the app’s user-friendly setup. The equipment list is small and consists of items most people already own. The app doesn’t require any additional sensors or a proprietary smart ball. All that is needed is a phone with the app, a tripod and any size 5 soccer ball which is recognised and then turned into a ‘smart ball’. For those without a tripod, they even suggest how to make one with a plastic bottle through a short video.
Augmented Reality Calibration
For accurate data, calibration is a must and MyKicks have done it with style. They have adopted a futuristic approach which feels more 2058 than 2018. Users have two options, either taking their shots against an actual soccer goal or a self-made virtual goal. With the virtual goal, any real-world item can be used for posts such as jumpers or safety cones. This is extremely convenient and makes the app possible to be played almost anywhere.
Creating A Virtual Goal
The creation of the virtual goal requires the user to manually identify the bottom of the first goal post, from there an augmented measuring tape is displayed on screen to ensure the second post is the correct distance apart of approximately 7.3m give or take. The process can be a little fiddly and often involves several attempts of readjustments to get the goals the correct distance apart. Nevertheless, it is an understandable comprise to make rather than having to carry a physical measuring tape with you. To spend more time taking shots rather than chasing loose balls we recommend choosing a location with a wall or fence behind you. Once the goals are set up what comes next will leave you amazed.
Completing The Setup
Before your eyes, the makeshift goals you created will turn into an aesthetically pleasing augmented target. From here the app instructs you to turn around in where a blue augmented cylinder appears as the penalty spot. The ball needs to be placed in it for it to be recognised and made into a ‘smart ball’. After that is done two similar styled red augmented cylinder appears diagonally, either can be selected for the phone and tripod to be placed for recording. When playing on uneven grass surfaces be mindful of the phone’s orientation. If the phone is tilted, it will result in the goals being wrongly projected on the screen.
Getting Your Kick Graded
Once the setup is complete, getting your shooting ability graded is quick and easy. To gain your initial PCR score, taking 5 shots is all that is required. The app will do the rest of the work for you. Though it may not be a large enough sample size for an accurate overview of your ability it can be used for comparisons with other users. The app also grades every shot individually.
Getting Your PCR Rating
After each registered attempt, ball speed and placement scores are called out of the phone’s speaker. This is a neat feature as you don’t need to walk over and look at your phone after each kick. The analysis time for kick feedback was quick. This was even though we were using an old 6s plus released way back in 2015.
The combination of quick feedback time and wanting to beat your previous score makes the app extremely addictive. To continuously take shots you just place the ball on the penalty spot and either make use of apps voice recognition feature and say “ready” or press the on-screen button. Unfortunately, the penalty spot does disappear after the first kick. To combat this, we advise physically marking the spot yourself to enhance data reliability. The only downside of this experience was the occasional instances when kicks weren’t registered, but this only occurred a handful of times.
Accuracy Of Data
It is a feat on its own that the app calculates shot placement on the augmented goal. However, we are doubtful of the ball speed readings. We are aware calibration can affect accuracy, so we took the strictest care with setup and followed the app’s suggestions to the word.
Our Kicks vs The Pros
The fastest shots we took were recorded at over 100km/h and we often kicked with speeds over 95km/h. Though I tried belting the cover off the ball I highly doubt I kicked the ball that fast. Putting that into perspective, Guinness World Records did a test for shot speed using Premier League legends Frank Lampard and Thierry Henry and they only mustered kicks of around 110km/h. I highly doubt my shot power was close to either of them.
How Useful Is The PCR rating?
Seeing as the data has uncertain accuracy, PCR ratings don’t make a fair tool when comparing your scores with the pros. Furthermore, even if the speeds were accurate the method selected to predict penalty conversion rate is not suitable. As previously mentioned, the conditions of how the penalty is taken are the main downfall as there is no keeper involved as well as other match related pressures. It would have been much better if they had a virtual goalkeeper who you must score past that would randomly select a side. With all factors considered in our opinion, we believe you can’t effectively compare your kicking ability to your favourite professionals with the app. The ratings are more suitable for comparing with other players on the same platform.
Going forward we will continue to keep using the myKicks app simply because it is easy to set up and provides quick and useful feedback. It will likely be used for kickabouts with friends and the occasional shooting contests with teammates before and/or after training sessions. However, it lacks the urgency that will make users want to go back to the app every day or every other day. Perhaps, if there were more features which facilitated technique development, this would be different. Despite that, when you do decide to go for a kick, the developers have done an exceptional job of creating a seamless experience with well-designed augmented visuals.
myKicks is a well-polished app. Getting your own FIFA style shooting rating is quick and easy. The setup is user-friendly and doesn’t require a lot of equipment. The analysis ran smoothly with our outdated iPhone 6s Plus, this is despite augmented reality being a computationally demanding task. The app does a good job of locating ball placement in reference to the goal. Though the speed-reading accuracy is questionable. Much emphasis has been placed on using your Penalty Conversion Rate (PCR) scores to compare users shot to the pros. However, due to the significant differences in environment between how the users take their shots in comparison to the professionals, limited insight can be gained. Collectively in our opinion, the PCR scores are trivial, and the ratings derived from the app may be better used for comparing with friends and other players around the world. Furthermore, being able to review videos of past kicks with kicking stats is also another amazing feature that the team at Formalytics have put in. Overall, they have a done a good and built a solid foundation for the app’s future improvement.
What We Would Like To See in Future
The app informs users of the outcome of the kick such as shot speed and placement however in future we would like to see more meaningful feedback through technique suggestions. This can be done through pose estimation algorithms in where kinematics such as limb angles are analysed and feedback is given. This would be especially beneficial for training your weak foot. With phone processing capabilities continuing to improve and better tracking algorithms being developed we hope we will be seeing this feature soon.
What To Look Out For
We were fortunate enough to have spoken to the Formalytics CEO Andrew Hall who informed us there is a massive January release on the horizon. It will include improvements with accuracy and reliability as well as other advancements across the board. We recommend you to keep an eye out and give it a try when it drops.
That’s the end of this blog, comment below and tell us about your experiences with the myKicks app.