Soccer ball

Breaking it down: a soccer ball with a serious game

The Adidas MiCoach Smart Ball won’t instantly turn 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 feedback on strike point, spin, speed and flight path for practice kicks. Using this data, players can perfect long passes, increase shot power, and even add more curvature to free kicks.

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

Open the Adidas MiCoach Smart Ball

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

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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

Once I created a big enough opening, I could see how Adidas gave this ball its brains. In the center of the interior cavity is a small white plastic sphere held in place by strong rubber bands attached to the inner layers of the ball. A single wire connects the circuitry inside the orb to the receiver coil, which is attached inside the bladder.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

After unhooking the rubber bands and releasing the coil from the receiver, I was finally able to remove the electronics box from the MiCoach Smart Ball. Physical snaps and glue hold the two halves of the hard plastic shell of the package together. I had to cut through the hull to access the circuit board and battery inside, but both came out of the open hull without too much trouble. The whole dismantling process took about 30 minutes.

What teardown tells us

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  • A ball well done: I’m no soccer ball construction expert, but every MiCoach Smart Ball hands-on review I’ve watched or read has given it high marks for quality. The lightly textured PU (polyurethane) cover is made up of 32 heat-sealed panels. The internal air bladder is made of butyl.
  • The bullet within a bullet: The brain of the MiCoach ball is a second 1.5 inch diameter sphere suspended directly from the center of the ball. Inside is a single circuit board and a battery. Soldered to the board, a 16-bit RISC microcontroller from Texas Instruments can operate at a clock rate of 25 MHz and has 128 KB of non-volatile memory and 10 KB of SRAM. The sensor that collects all 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 impractical: I couldn’t remove or replace the entire processor, sensor, battery, and charging without opening the bullet and damaging the rubber bands that hold it in place. And while it is possible to repair leaks in some soccer balls, the construction of the MiCoach ball’s cover and bladder, as well as the size of the hole needed to remove the assembly, make replacing the internal hardware a little difficult. practice.

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 deal.

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