Soccer ball

Break it down: a soccer ball with serious play

The Adidas MiCoach Smart Ball won’t instantly transform you into Cristiano Ronaldo or David Beckham. But this smart training ball is packed with technology to help football fans play better. Combined with the free MiCoach Smart Ball app, it gives players real-time information on strike point, rotation, speed and flight path for practice kicks. Using this data, players can perfect long passes, increase shooting power, and even add more curvature to free kicks.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

To make a soccer ball smart, Adidas added a 16-bit RISC microcontroller, a multi-axis MEMS eCompass module and a Bluetooth connectivity module, all powered by a 3.7V lithium-ion battery and an inductive charging system. . Everything is packaged in a standard size 5 (22cm diameter) soccer ball that weighs 445 grams (well within range of a FIFA approved ball).

Opening of the Adidas MiCoach Smart Ball

Whenever I open a gadget, I aim to do so in a way that allows me to reassemble it after my teardown is complete. Unfortunately, there was no convenient way to get into the MiCoach Smart Ball without opening it. At least all of the destruction was for a good cause.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Using a very sharp knife, I carefully cut the outer shell, inner liner, and bladder from the ball. I started my incision about an inch above the lightning bolt logo and pulled out a section of about 7 inches. I carefully avoided cutting myself or cutting the inductive charging system’s take-up coil, which I knew was located behind the lightning bolt graphic at the bottom of the bullet.

Once I created an opening big enough, I could see how Adidas gave this ball its brain. In the center of the internal cavity is a small white plastic sphere held in place by strong rubber bands attached to the internal layers of the ball. A single wire connects the circuits inside the orb to the take-up coil, which is attached inside the bladder.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

After unhooking the rubber bands and unhooking the coil from the receiver, I was finally able to remove the electronics assembly from the MiCoach Smart Ball. Snaps and glue hold the two halves of the package’s hard plastic shell together. I had to cut through the shell to access the PCB and battery inside, but both came out of the shell open without too much trouble. The whole disassembly process took about 30 minutes.

What the teardown tells us

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

  • A well done ball: I’m no soccer ball building expert, but every MiCoach Smart Ball practice review I’ve watched or read has given it high marks for quality. The slightly textured PU (polyurethane) coating consists of 32 heat-sealed panels. The internal air bladder is made of butyl.
  • The ball in the ball: The MiCoach bullet brain is a second 1.5 inch diameter sphere suspended directly from the center of the bullet. Inside is a single printed circuit board and a battery. A Texas Instruments 16-bit RISC microcontroller capable of operating at a clock speed of 25 MHz and featuring 128 KB of non-volatile memory and 10 KB of SRAM is soldered to the board. The sensor that collects all the kick data is a multi-axis eCompass MEMS module (3D accelerometer and 3D magnetometer) from STMicroelectronics, and a Nordic Semiconductor Bluetooth chip connects the ball to your mobile device.
  • Brain surgery is not practical: I couldn’t remove or replace the entire processor, sensor, battery, and charging assembly without opening the ball and damaging the rubber bands that hold it in place. And while it is possible to seal leaks in some soccer balls, the construction of the MiCoach ball’s cover and bladder, as well as the size of the hole required to remove the assembly, make replacing internal hardware impractical. .

Expensive but a unique training tool for football enthusiasts

The MiCoach Smart Ball costs $ 200, which is expensive for a training ball. But given that a high-end match ball, such as the Adidas Brazuca, costs between $ 100 and $ 160, paying $ 40 more for a ball with a brain isn’t that big of a leap. before.

This story appears in the summer edition of CNET Magazine. For more magazine stories go here.