A team of Japanese researchers has come up with a novel solution that enables people with low vision to play badminton. The unique concept replaces the shuttlecock with an encased DJI Tello drone and requires a special set of rackets.
Yoichi Ochiai, an associate professor at the University of Tsukuba, and his students specifically aimed to develop a system that would recognize the location of a “flying object” during racket sports.
Since it is difficult for the visually impaired to play sports like badminton, the researchers wanted to devise a solution that would provide players with auxiliary information such as height, depth, left and right directions, and swing delay through a distinctive sound and haptic feedback.
The solution? Sensor-equipped rackets and a DJI Tello drone buzzing safely inside a cage, similar to what you would see in the sport of drone soccer.
But even then, since hitting the drone with a conventional racket was bound to damage the machine, the team took the strings out and attached the sensors to the frame. These sensors would detect the drone passing through the frame and automatically change its direction to move toward the opponent.
Then, to perfect the prototype, the team conducted user tests with visually impaired players. The final result is what you see below – a motion-capturing, customizable frame with a short, sensor-laden stout that provides a firmer grip than your traditional badminton racket.
The system is able to recognize four distinct types of shots: smash, receive, clear shot, and hairpin net shot. Players can move the drone/shuttle to the left or right simply by swinging in that direction.
The research team says that test users – people who have acquired visual disabilities later in life – enjoyed playing “drone badminton” because it allowed them to reconnect with a sport they love, even if the thrill of speed and agility was no longer there.
It’s also important to note that though the current design targets badminton enthusiasts, the research can be extrapolated to other mid-air sports too.
Watch drone badminton in action
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