Yesterday, we introduced you to the details of our research and discovery work for a new project we’ve been working on: ARC Madness™. Though we learned a lot during this initial phase of exploration and development, we naturally had to test our hypotheses before we could move forward. In July, the whole team met up with ARC founder Steve Piazza at a local community centre for some hands-on prototype testing. You’ll see by the photo, some of us took this whole “training” bit quite seriously.

During the on-court session, analytical, technical and personal feedback of a player’s free throw shot is supplied in real time, which means that a player has to internalize the results of their shot quickly in order to adjust their technique in time for their next try. Here, a shot summary of the player’s ARC Zone (the trajectory of the ball) and the Rim Zone (the distance of the ball in reaching the target rim perimeter), combined with guidance from the ARC Madness coach, can help a player quickly glean whether they’re within their ideal shooting zone, or whether they’re literally falling flat.

First impressions: Plugging into the complete ARC experience


The first and most apparent conclusion we reached is that the system setup on court is vital to the experience. From the calibration and placement of the hardware and precision camera, to the placement of the ARC Madness feedback monitor, each of these considerations have an incredible impact on the player’s cognitive ability to interpret two variable data sets at once, affecting the speed in which a player can recognize, evaluate, understand, and react to the feedback given them.

The proof was in the pudding; many of us saw ourselves slowly but surely making strides and making more baskets. Here, first-time basketball player Stéphane gave us a run for our money with his incredible beginner’s luck, landing one free throw after another – one handed no less. The rest of us struggled but saw incremental improvements in our technique, thanks to Steve’s guidance, sharp eye, and ability to correct our disposition in order to achieve better results.

Designer turned Data Frankenstein: Sports data visualization for training


The real fun came when we all gathered back at the office to relive our on-court experience, take a closer look at our performance, and compare our results.

Each of us accessed the web-based application to view a series of graphs depicting our individual shot summaries. While most people gain satisfaction from seeing a simple line graph trending upwards, this endeavour isn’t about measuring wins and total baskets scored over time; it’s about showing the player the unvarnished truth about their technique and their improvement.

Lyndon enlightened us as to his approach for visualizing the summary shot analysis, using his own unique methods that allowed for better visualization of nonlinear shot patterns and, more importantly, capture outlying shots.

Motion graphics proved incredibly important in taking static graphs and animating them for extended learning. A few clicks, and a young athlete can see for themselves the trajectory of each one of their shots including where the shot fell short or didn’t quite hit the target ARC Zone. This ability to visually compare successful shots from unsuccessful ones goes a long way in helping a player internalize their tendencies and helps them create a set of goals for themselves around how to improve their technique for the next session; further reinforcing a player’s good habits but also driving them to commit to training more often.


To blow out these visualizations even further, players also benefit from watching a video replay of their best shot in action, which helps them better assess their range of shooting positions and see how much even a slight shift in stance affects their ability to make a successful basket. Basically, the video replay feature, in fact the entire Web dashboard, is the equivalent of putting the professional ARC Madness coach in your pocket and taking him home with you.

One thing was abundantly evident: the full experience, from on-court training to the post-session independent study and team comparison, compelled each of us to want to try again and see if we could improve, and beat, our baseline results. That’s a feeling we know will be replicated in youth basketball players.

Mirroring this iterative training process, we know our work is far from done. In the next phase of revisions, Lyndon will be looking at how to better collate these results, making them even more reader-friendly for youth, so that they can independently capture insights and remember how to repeat their best shots.

Fast Break: Steve takes the ARC Madness experience to the real world

 Right now Steve’s putting in some overtime playing mad scientist as he tests the prototype with select schools and teams across British Columbia and in a few US cities. While the game isn’t over yet, we’ve triumphed over some serious challenges. The team’s looking forward to the next round of revisions and to bringing youth basketball players around the world a little closer to their best game, one free throw at a time.

 Now the only pressing question that remains is: Who will play Steve Piazza in the basketball movie version of Moneyball? Leave your suggestions in the comments.