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The future of Skytrak?

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  • The future of Skytrak?

    Just wondering if a new machine is anywhere on the horizon? Perhaps one with club and ball data measured through the camera's? Rapsodo
    skytrak obviously has been a huge success at its price point, I think a machine with club and ball at even double the price would be a game changer.

    I have a GC2 but like alot of people I started with a Skytrak and it served me well until I upgraded. I'd love to have club data but I'd have to spend another 4k for an HMT add on and that's not gonna happen any time soon. Skytrak seems to certainly support their customers and continue to make their software better and better.

    I think the market is there for something under 5k ...... maybe someday we will have all the technology we need in an affordable package.

  • #2
    I believe it is highly unlikely.

    1. The market for accurate club data. Nobody will turn it down if it is near free, but the number of potential customers willing to pay $1,000+ dollars for it is a fraction of the overall sim market.

    2. The customers who want club data are either teaching professionals, touring professionals, VERY serious amateurs, or very wealthy individuals.

    3. The technical challenges are enormous. Instructors that have both quad/HMT and Trackman will tell you that the club data often differs.They differ for a variety of reasons. Trackman calculates face from ball and path whereas HMT/Quad measures it. Furthermore, due to the high closure rate of the face, just being off by milliseconds on moment of impact will get different results.

    4. Rapsodo/Skygolf can sell the Skytrak at such a reasonable price because they can produce it cheaply. They can produce it cheaply because they found a way to photograph the ball using cheap hardware. From a technical point of view, I don't believe this methodology will work for club data, so the cost advantage isn't there.

    5. The small market mentioned above demands UTMOST accuracy. A serious coach is not going to be interested unless the data is extremely reliable. Even if it was very good most of the time, he/she would rather pony up for the Trackman/Quad. A wealthy hobbyist wouldn't be interested in it either. In other words, despite its shortcomings, there is a market for Optishot. There would be no market for the Optishot of club data.

    6. Even if Rapsodo could develop the technology to capture club data at a low price point, the testing required to validate the data would be extensive. The markup required to recoup these costs would close the gap with Trackman/HMT.

    As it stands, I don't believe Skytrak's calculated data will ever reach the levels of accuracy demanded by serious users. It is simply impossible to determine to what degree spin axis was created by face to path vs. off center hits. If you use foot spray and ignore off center hits, then yes.

    I do think the data could be improved upon by tighter Skypro/Skytrak integration. The skypro could theoretically give a reasonable estimate of club path, but ONLY if the club is absolutely square to target line on setup. Perhaps some type of cheap laser attachment could help with this.

    I also believe it is possible that the Skypro data holds "hidden" information about quality of impact. The deceleration and twisting of impact would be picked up the skypro's inertial measurement unit . I suspect there would be a different "signature" for different types of impact. If there is enough signal in that noise, it can be mined. It would be very interesting to feed raw Skypro data as well as Skytrak ball data to deep learning AI to see how accurately it can predict club data. It need not be that expensive as the input data either already exists or could be cheaply gathered. A Kaggle competition could look after the AI end at a very reasonable cost..
    Last edited by Morini; 12-06-2018, 01:52 PM.


    • #3
      Along with the market issues mentioned above, I think the problem, at least from a technical point of view, is that the whole method of taking pictures would need to change. As far as I know, Skytrak triggers off the ball passing through a laser curtain after it has been hit. It then starts one camera exposure during which time an array of LEDs flashes very fast two times. This effectively freezes the ball in the image. It then offloads the image analysis to the PC. This method is inexpensive because the PC does the computing and the camera doesn’t have to be that great.

      For the GC2 and HMT to work, they start taking pictures at around 1000 FPS when the ball is in the hitting zone. Each of those is getting analyzed on board by FPGAs. That requires much better cameras and much more on board processing power. After the ball is hit separate images are taken at 10,000 FPS. They are also analyzed onboard. You need both pre and post impact pictures to get all the club data. And not just a couple but lots of them. And all those pictures need to be measured in hardware instead of software to minimize delays. If they can figure out a cheaper way of triggering before the ball is hit, it might be possible. But right now I don’t know of any way to do that. They would also need to increase their hardware costs for the high speed cameras and FPGAs and spend lots on development to work around Foresight’s patents.

      I think a combination of a hitting mat like Protee for club data and Skytrak for ball data would be the most cost effective solution if they could be integrated.


      • Morini
        Morini commented
        Editing a comment
        Fully agree. Skytrak's method of photographing the ball will not work for club.

    • #4
      HI everyone

      I disagree,

      who would have thought skytrak could be sold for 2K before it was originally released?

      Everything else was 10K plus.

      ES16 needs work, but it sells for $3995 now and if they get this system to skytrak's level of accuracy (even if its just for indoor use) i think ES will sell bucket loads of these units to home users.

      The cost of ultra high frame rate camera's is probably falling every year and has probably halved since the GC2 was first released, when ever that was.

      There are really smart people out there and someone will develop something, even if there is no demand, because golf is an addiction, you could be an engineer for NASA by day and go home and want to belt golfballs all night.

      Keep dreaming
      Last edited by HappyGilmore102; 12-06-2018, 03:20 PM.


      • andygg1986
        andygg1986 commented
        Editing a comment
        While I agree hardware costs are falling, your ES16 reference kinda makes my point. They tried to sell something with $4k hardware and ended up with a substandard product. They had compromises like requiring you to tell it what club you are hitting, and that input was clearly used in their calculations. There are plenty of examples of people selecting a wedge when they hit a 5 iron and getting totally different numbers than when they select 5 iron. That shows that they aren't actually accurately measuring ball and club data. Rather they measure some parameters inaccurately and try to fit them into a model for the selected club as best they can. By abandoning the ES16 and moving on to the ES20/20 which according to them has "all new hardware", they basically are confirming that you can't make something for $4k that will give you accurately measured ball and club data. They are also moving into the $10k range (and have not yet proven that they have a working product, even at that price). As I see it, the compromises that people are willing to accept are more related to the user experience (shot delay, small hitting zone, etc) rather than accuracy. With Optishot at under $300 and Rmotion coming in at under $500, you need to be very accurate to justify charging 4x to 8x as much.

        The other thing to keep in mind is that to make a profit, your hardware costs need to be around 20% of your final sale price. You need that other 80% to pay hardware and software developers, sales staff, support, marketing, and distributor markup. So at the $4k point, you are looking at a hardware budget in the sub $1000 range. I think ES started out with the budget and tried to get the best product they could, whereas Foresight tried to make the best product they could and ended up with a higher budget.

    • #5
      I am encouraged by the work being put into the SkyTrak app...several new features and the promise to incorporate putting. I can see that they might eventually bring out their own eighteen holes of simulator golf. I don't care about clubhead data. Through feel and ball flight, I have a good idea of the swing being good or bad and what went wrong or right.


      • #6
        It looks like Rapsodo has a patent for a device that contains a camera and radar. Perhaps this is the future of SkyTrak?


        • Dan McWhirter
          Dan McWhirter commented
          Editing a comment
          They do make a device to read baseball stands on a tripod behind the umpire and, at a minimum, it is using radar, perhaps a doppler type, to track the ball's flight and speed. It may also use a camera to record the ball flight. I recall it reads curves, knuckle balls, spin, etc.

      • #7
        Based on the posts above, I would put myself in the hardcore hobby category...I'm also willing to spend some money, if it makes sense. But I basically stopped at skytrack because the next level just didn't seem to justify the price, for me. I've thought about getting a flight scope xi+ but in the end, I decided not to for the following reasons.

        1. it's radar, so basically the only place I have room is at the range. I kind of see what my ball is doing and video gives me an idea of what the club is doing. skypro and mevo fills in some of the gaps.
        2. I take lessons with a trackman, so I kind of see my club data already
        3. Knowing my face/path, attack angle, dynamic loft, etc is nice...but you really need to know what to do with that info. Example..your swing direction is +2, and angle of attack is -.6...what are you going to do about it?

        GC2/HMT is the step of xi+ and does address some of the issues. But now you're talking about the 5k+ range. I just don't need that data, at that price. This all applies to me, but i get the sense a lot of my friends, who some have even more disposable cash than me, feel the same way. You're talking about a pretty small crowd that is willing to pay more than 1k extra for good club data. At this point, i'm guessing getting the people who really want it to fork out the big bucks makes more sense than coming up with something sub 1k for the masses. That being said, i'm all for them coming up another $2000 addon that does good club data. I think the people who come on this site would eat it up...but just wondering if that's enough, for them. My 2 cents.


        • #8
          Adding club speed would be a big upgrade to a lot of users. There are too many that get confused by the calculated speed, there is even a YouTube channel that reviews clubs and focuses on club speed more than anything else. Having measured swing speed also provides actual smash factors which can be used to tell the quality of the strike.

          There are plenty of radar-based gadgets out there that do a very good job of capturing swing speed. I use the PRGR Red Eyes Pocket which is very accurate compared to my GC2+HMT setup. SkyTrak can design one of these radars with BlueTooth to interface with the software as they do with the SkyPro.


          • #9
            I'd buy version 2.0 if I could get a unit that measured 150+ ball speed accurately and worked in the sun.


            • #10
              This is a fascinating discussion.


              • Jwheels9876
                Jwheels9876 commented
                Editing a comment
                If only we had someone who knew what the future held!

              • dmsimm69
                dmsimm69 commented
                Editing a comment
                I seriously hope you are not going to stop with that comment

            • #11
              Originally posted by Rapsodo View Post
              This is a fascinating discussion.
              Care to share you thoughts, Mr. Rapsodo?


              • FirGir
                FirGir commented
                Editing a comment
                Yes, please do.
                Domo arigato

            • #12
              Hi Everyone

              Been reading through this thread, some people talk about the research and development costs involved with the design of these launch monitors as being a huge part of the reason for the high foresight/trackman cost per unit.

              As an accountant i just wanted to say that this is bogus rubbish that (maybe the companies) are throwing out there to justify there units price.

              Depending on which country the researh and development is done in for tax purposes, certain countries (like Ireland) will allow research and development costs to be totally written off against future taxes on the income which a successful product makes, essentially making research and development free.

              Certain countries also give manufacturers sweet heart deals so that they pay virtually zero corporation tax when the product starts to sell. Some countries will even pay companies like Rapsodo to setup there.

              Ireland has a lot of US multinational - microsoft, apple, google, facebook & tons of Pharma companies located here for these reasons.

              So, research and development costs can be deleted from the cost argument in my view as this money is virtually all recouped once sales start to occur.

              I hope this comment didn't bore everyone .

              Last edited by HappyGilmore102; 12-07-2018, 12:29 AM.


              • Morini
                Morini commented
                Editing a comment
                Sorry, I can't follow. If you are losing money because your product sales are too low to recover research overhead, what good are tax write offs? By that logic give me a million dollars just because. It won't cost you a dime because you can write it off? Expenses are expenses.

              • HappyGilmore102
                HappyGilmore102 commented
                Editing a comment
                HI Morini

                If your product sales are too low to recover research overhead, you can carry forward those losses into the future indefinately to set off against future taxes on profits until your research overhead has been recouped.

                So you dont send the tax man a cheque till you've paid off your research overhead with future profits.

                If there are low sales and no profits for 5 to ten years you'll probably go bust, file for bankrupcy etc..

              • HappyGilmore102
                HappyGilmore102 commented
                Editing a comment
                Hi Andy

                Your employer could pay you 5m or 10million a year, but because you are an Employee not a Multinational, you would pay somewhere in the region of 50% of your income in tax, you would also pay additional income tax on any benefits you receive like a company car, company laptop company phone, company healthcare etc etc...........

                Your development cost engineer is 100k and you make 1 million profit in year 1.
                Lets say you must pay 10% corporation tax on the 1 million profit.
                So you need to send the tax man a cheque for 100k, but now you can keep that cheque and pay off your development cost instead.
                If you cant do it this year you can only write off 60k the remaining 40k can be carried forward to the next tax period.

                Very simplified, but thats why they are located in Ireland especially the pharma corporations, because of drug research and development.

                Corporation tax rate 12.5% but in reality is actually only 2%.

                Nice for corporations, not nice for employees, income taxes and indirect taxes are shockingly high.

                Sorry for boring everybody.


            • #13
              My personal opinion isn't a matter of if "accurate" ball and club data is available for under $5k it is when. Accurate to me means the level of accuracy of Skytrak today relative to a QCquad or whatever is considered the best option for ball data. I picked $5k with zero market research but for me personally this is the price point I'm willing to cap out at and I think $5k is doable for a good number of hobbyists but $10k+ is a non-starter for most in this category in my opinion.

              I say it is a when because eventually technology becomes cheap. I still remember the first 1x speed CD Rom drive I bought for my computer was roughly $750 and a quick glance suggests I can buy a 52x speed read/write drive today that also reads DVD for under $20 (I appreciate the market is much bigger here and I'm giving a 25+ year time lag but we are talking a 95%+ reduction in price for a far superior product). There are apps on an iPhone that can detect launch speed and angle (we can debate the accuracy today but it wasn't awful on speed from what I could tell +/- 5 mph on the biggest differences in my limited testing) so we'll get there on more parameters and accuracy eventually.

              Foresight, Trackman and Flightscope effectively have an oligopoly and have set their prices on maximizing revenue with limited competition between them for a pretty small market overall at that price point. My understanding (and I haven't done any real research as I won't pay the cost for these devices) is that unlocking additional data for Flightscope Xi and QCQuad is a software upgrade which means hardware costs are clearly not really the barrier to the extra data. They could all charge less and sell more units but they've selected their current price as they feel it maximizes revenue which is what their shareholders want, businesses have to guess where the breakeven is because price drops can often be made up on volume but I suspect these companies are scared to take the gamble if they are achieving profit targets today (and the reputational risk of a massive price cut even if the math works, which it may not, would sure piss off your loyal customers).

              Skytrak took the risk of reducing price (albeit with some lost accuracy) and I'm guessing it's paid off given how good they are with updating the software on an ongoing basis (if they were bleeding cash I suspect they would skimp on rolling out things like randomizers etc. and keep less developers on staff). They weren't undercutting themselves though so they didn't have loyal customers for this product to annoy. Before Skytrak I suspect people had discussions like this that good ball data would never be sub $5k.

              I recently bought an R-motion and I'm hoping Skytrak/Rapsodo keep working on integration (right now I use Skytrak on my PC and the R-motion data just on my phone). I've suggested before but given Rapsodo is reading this thread my thoughts are:
              - link Skytrak and R-motion in the app (probably Skytrak range as getting TGC to do my next steps seems unlikely given their market is only partially for these users)
              - feed the R-motion club data in and have the Skytrak use its calculated club data algorithm to also estimate values
              - compare the results of both captured and calculate data and if the results are plausible on both then output the R-motion data in the app, if the results seem suspect between the two data points output blanks
              - if someone is really anal they could also use foot spray and ignore the data totally on mishits (I think after hitting the amount of balls many of us do on our sims we also get pretty good at being honest with ourselves on what was good contact versus poor contact)
              - this is not as good as a $10k device but for most serious hobbyists at about 20% of the cost I think it gets the job done until someone can get more accurate for far less money than the current options


              • wbond
                wbond commented
                Editing a comment
                Even 5k is a non starter for most. That is why skytrak found a good price point with the hardware and software they are delivering, even though it's ball data only. I would say the jump in home sim setups was directly due to skytrak. GC2 has been available for quite some time, but it was very cost prohibitive to most. Now people can get in for 1/3 of the price, and get software way more cheaper to play vs foresight.

            • #14
              I still remember the first 1x speed CD Rom drive I bought for my computer was roughly $750 and a quick glance suggests
              True all that. But those are commodity items with mass markets. The GC2 was released in 2010. At the time, I figured it would be half priced within a couple of years. It is now 8 years later, and they still sell it ... for the same price. And that is with Skytrak having entered the market with a reasonable competitive product at a third the price. Things can move at a snails pace in non-commodity markets. And compared to a sim, clubhead data has far far smaller market, making it a far less attractive market to enter.

              I agree that technology will continue to improve at lower prices, but the rigidity of testing for club data to get it to the accuracy demanded by this small market is so expensive that I don't think it be worthwhile if the hardware was free. I hope to be proven wrong on this, but doubt it.

              Foresight, Trackman and Flightscope effectively have an oligopoly and have set their prices on maximizing revenue with limited competition between them for a pretty small market overall at that price point
              True that as well. But the competition is clearly heating up between those two, and Foresight is in the mix as well, at least for indoor. There is clearly market segmentation with the Xi, and yes, margins must be hefty, which means hardware costs are low, at least for the radar based units.

              this is not as good as a $10k device but for most serious hobbyists at about 20% of the cost I think it gets the job done until someone can get more accurate for far less money than the current options
              I think this will be the only option for the "hobby" crowd. Getting accurate club data is an order of magnitude harder than ball data, and the number of people willing to pay what it costs to get it done is far too small. It is possible that foresight might start to consider segmenting their market at some point, and selling a cheaper HMT. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

              I do like the idea of integrating with R-motion or Skytrak, and rejecting suspect data. As someone else mentioned, I think an IR mat could get reasonably accurate path for cheap.


              • wbond
                wbond commented
                Editing a comment
                I keep saying that protee should make TGC able to read and display data from their mat and use the ST ball data for the ball launch.

            • #15
              HI everyone

              I do think skytrak is starting to hurt the GC2 base ball speed unit whick is currently 6K.
              Skytrak was only released here in europe in early 2017.

              So it takes a little time, but most home users will probably go skytrak.
              Home users now seem to be looking for used GC2's, they also seem to be looking for cheaper ways to repair, replace parts.

              I think Skytrak repairs are pretty cheap in comparison based on a cost of repairs breakdown i saw somewhere on this forum a while ago.

              SKytrak will improve, GC2 will have to drop its prices.

              I think GC2 was the skytrak of its day selling at a much lower price point than what was out there back in 2010.

              The future for consumers looks rosey in my opinion.



              • wjf67
                wjf67 commented
                Editing a comment
                I am delighted with my SkyTrak. I originally had an Optishot 2, which was fun, but I soon realised that it wouldn't help me improve my game. ST was step-up financially, but the accuracy (I've managed to compare with GC2 and Trackman) of the ball flight is great. I've also recently solved the club speed and smash factor (Power Transfer Index) by adding SkyPro, and that has helped me to analyse when I am striking well or not. Yes, club path etc would be great, but the price differential to radar systems is substantial, and whilst SkyPro doesn't give me that, it diagnoses when I am am off-plane etc. For me, I have what I want, and I have also liked the softeare upgrades. More SkyPro data on the SkyTrack home screen would be good for me personally.
                Last edited by wjf67; 12-24-2018, 11:37 AM.