Sport Interaction Technology(Student Work)
Role: Project Designer / User Researcher

Course Name: Sports Interaction Technology
Keywords: Basketball, Dunking, Sonification, Sport Interaction Technology, Human System/Machine Interaction, Creative Technology


The aim of sports has stayed the same for a long period of time - a competition to determine the best athlete in a specific discipline. While the goals remain the same, the methods to achieve them evolve. The development of technologies has had a positive impact on the use of the technologies during sports practice. Technologies can help athletes unlock their full potential and improve their training process. The examples range from the use of clap skates for speed skating[8], to evaluating athletes health and capabilities through the use of complex cardiopulmonary exercise test, to using technologies to break new records (sub 2-hour marathon).Sports technologies can be grouped into three non-exclusive domains - Physical Technology, Sports Data Technology and Sports Interaction Technology. In this project, we mainly focus on the last domain.

Conceptual user interaction with Dunkify. Different movements generate different sounds

Dunking in basketball is a complex but creative skill that provides players with a wide range of freedom of expression. However, the necessary jump height and the height of the player restrict dunking to a limited number of players.Training dunking improves several important skills such as jump height, agility and coordination that transfer well to the real game context. A system is proposed that makes dunking more accessible through using an height adjustable rim in combination with a system that adds sonification to basketball movements to stimulate creativity.


A Research through Design approach was conducted to identify a problem statement in a sports domain and to find an appropriate Sports Interaction Technology solution. To guide the overall research process and to maintain a structured and methodically sound approach, the development of the solution was structured by using the Design Thinking Bootleg method. This method for design thinking is divided into various phases: empathise & theorize, define, ideate, prototype and test, as can be viewed in Figure 2. During this project, the first four phases were conducted. First two, empathise & theorize, will be described in the following section. Empathise phase was used to gain an understanding of our user domain by learning their values through observing, engaging and immersing with users.  Afterwards, define phase focused on defining the problem statement and its results will be discussed in the section of user interviews.

Design Thinking Framework

Overview of the design methods used in this project

The initial phase of this project concerns brainstorming sessions to identify a necessary and intriguing problem statement. First, the KJ Method [15] was applied, which is a brain-storming and prioritizing method that places emphasis on the most important ideas and actions. This resulted in the following:

One technique often admired in professional basketball is ‘dunking’. However, this is often inaccessible to people practicing the sport. How can we increase the accessibility of dunking whilst enhancing engagement?

A full elaboration of the KJ method and results can be viewed in Appendix A. The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. First, an exploratory interview was conducted with basketball players to gain an understanding on the user needs. This can be viewed in Section 1.1.1. Second, inSection 2 the research structure is elaborated. Third, related literature and work will be discussed in Section 3. After, the concept will be elaborated as well as the prototype inSection 4. Section 5 describes the design process and its challenges. A full overview of all the methods used in this project can be found in Table on the right.

Interviews With Potential Users

The goal of the exploratory interview was to gain an understanding of dunking in basketball, and in particular whether the inaccessibility of dunking is an issue regarding the nature and engagement of the game. To understand whether the inaccessibility of dunking is an issue for basketball players who cannot dunk, interviewees were selected based on their basketball experience and the inaccessibility to dunk. As the interview follows an exploratory approach, a semi-structured interview was set-up with the following questions:

• How long have you been playing basketball?
• What do you think of dunking? Do you think that it changes the game? Why?
• Have you tried virtual/digital basketball games? If so, what do you think of dunking in a simulation game?
• Do you perceive the inaccessibility of dunking as something bad? If yes, why? If not, why not?
• How do you think that dunking can be made accessible for more people (without thinking of technology)?

Participants were selected based on whether they play basketball at an association in order to understand the practice context and training opportunities, and if they had the ability to dunk to gain an understanding on how the inaccessibility of dunking is perceived. The results of the interview showed that most participants perceive dunking as a spectacular part of basketball. On the other hand, they thought of the inaccessibility of dunking not as something "bad". Some participants elaborated that dunking is inaccessible to most players and therefore no unfair advantage, while others indicate that the accessibility of dunking would improve spectator appeal and balance the playing of basketball as both women and men would be able to dunk. Lastly, most participants propose to lower the basket to practice dunking, however, this might hamper the dynamics of playing basketball (i.e., competition related). To summarise, dunking is perceived as inaccessible by the interviewed basketball players, but this inaccessibility was not perceived as unfair since most players and their typical opponents cannot dunk. Dunking was furthermore seen as spectacular and interesting to watch.

Problem Statement

Dunking is a large part of basketball. It is the flashiest and most noticeable way of scoring points. Furthermore, players have a lot of creative freedom on how to execute a dunk which helps to make these shots so spectacular. However, dunking is inaccessible to a large number of basketball players as the motor skills necessary to dunk are difficult to learn. In addition, many players are limited by their body and maximum jump height. Making dunking more accessible would increase the engagement of young or shorter players. Moreover, the skills learned from dunking, such as agility and jump height, translate well to the real game context. However, lowering the rim height is only a partial solution because it may not stimulate an important dunking characteristic: creativity. Considering the previous mentioned insights, the follow-ing problem statement was defined:

How can we stimulate creativity within dunking and make it more accessible to increased number of players?

At earlier stage of developing this project, researchers' first step of finding solutions is to the defined problem was brain writing which resulted in 65 solutions and solution variations. They ranged from using zero-gravity chambers for making dunking more accessible, to using AugmentedReality (AR) glasses to augment the dunking process, to the addition of specialised boosters to help users jump higher. A theme comparison was conducted to group similar ideas and identify the three most promising ideas that were further evaluated:
1. Using Augmented Reality (AR) to help users
2. Adjusting the height of the basket hoop to create more accessibility
3. Using different types of supportive technology (e.g., boosters, increased the bounciness of the floor) to help the users.

The final idea that came out of the brain writing session, was the adjustable rim. The initial idea was that every player has a controller to indicate that the rim should lower. The advantage that the rim only lowers on command is that it would be usable in a basketball game without distorting other actions such as a normal 3-point shot.

Ideation session for dunking

What We Do


The proposed system concept consists of two separate elements. First, an automated basketball rim focuses on enhancing accessibility of dunking (see Figure below). By lowering the basketball rim to the perfect dunk height (i.e., pre-calculated height based on the users height with an ability to manually fine tune it), almost anyone is given the opportunity toper form a dunk. This system works in conjunction with the Dunkify phone application, which is the second element of the proposed system. This application connects to the basketball ball integrated measurement system (i.e. the sensors),data processing system, and the audio-output manager.

Dunkify’s basketball rim lowering.

When signing up for Dunkify, users have to enter their body height and perform some jumps on camera. Based on this information the application can automatically calculate the ideal height for the rim for every user. This can always be changed in a later stage in the settings menu. After signing in on the starting page of the application, the user is presented with multiple options. Starting new session can be done individually or with friends, as the system allows multiple people to use it. Additionally, highlighted uploads from other users is displayed in the lower part of the application. Here, audio (and optionally video) tracks of others can be listened and shared. When starting a session, the user is presented with a scanning screen to scan the engravedDunkCode. This links the data from the ball directly to the application. When successfully linked, the user has the possibility to directly influence the presented sound.

Screens of the Applicaiton

First, a library of different instruments/synths can be used to select the preferred sound. The selected sound can then be altered by using the loudness, pitch and reverberation sliders, which ensures more sound variation. Lastly, after performing a dunk, the loop option can be selected to loop this specific sound, which allows users to use multiple loops to create one’s own fully fledged song. Regarding the adjustable basketball rim, players are presented with the option to select one specific height, or indicate which player will be perform-ing the dunk to lower it to the pre-calculated height. The users can also use voice-commands to lower the rim to a specified height . After the dunk, the creations can be shared via the platform for others to listen to. A flowchart of the system can be viewed in below.

Flowchart of Dunkify system


In this project researchers presented a concept for Sport InteractionTechnology which aims to make dunking more accessible and improve player creativity. A height adjustable rim is used to compensate physical constraints in combination with ball movement sonification to support engagement and creativity.The system can be used during regular training to improve performance and outside training context as a source of entertainment. The sonification of the movements improves player engagement in both use cases.

A Research through Design approach was conducted. It started with searching for opportunities in various sports domains that could potentially be solved by the application of Sports I-Tech. This resulted in the opportunities for dunking in basketball. The experience gained during this project shows that Re-search through Design is not exactly a straight forward journey. We used well established design methods, but still the final solution was a result of multiple iterations. Our journey to the final solution shows the importance of questioning developed concepts throughout the design process. Even though more than 60 ideas were generated during the brain writing session, none of them resulted in the final solution.Instead, these ideas were the starting point of the solution search. One of the initial ideas, height adjustable basketball rim, has been incorporated in the design. However, sonification is a feature that only appeared during the last iteration.

The proposed system is an answer to the problem statement, but it is not the only possible solution. The work illustrated that a problem can be approached from different perspectives and multiple Sports Interaction Technologies can be developed. Furthermore, the proposed design has not fully gone through the prototyping and test phases. There can still be new learnings and adjustments until it is made into a commercial product.

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