At a Glance
SkyTrak, featured in the ESPN Holiday Gift Guide, aims to help recreational golfers improve their game. They came to the ETR team, looking for a partner who could work with them to strategically develop a software solution that would complement their hardware experience.
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SkyTrak was a unique and fun project for us to work on. It is a product that sits at an interesting intersection of hardware and software and gave us a unique opportunity to be a part of a multi-year project that saw the development of a new piece of complex hardware that would then be coupled with the software our team developed. SkyTrak, featured in the ESPN Holiday Gift Guide and recipient of the Golf Digest 'Best in Golf' award for the past two years, aims to help recreational golfers improve their game. It is a launch monitor that measures the golf ball’s performance at impact, then translates that data into accurate ball flight to give the golfer an idea of how to improve their game.
Our partners at SkyTrak worked with a hardware developer to create a launch monitor that would rival its competitors in market. It would be more compact, portable, and it would cost much less while retaining the accuracy that other launch monitors boast. They came to the ETR team, looking for a partner who could work with them to strategically develop a software solution that would complement the hardware experience. Golfers would be able to practice their shots and the monitor would communicate with the software developed to visualize the data in a way that would be both visually appealing and easily digestible.
The Challenge: Find Elegance in Number Crunching
The technology behind developing a successful launch monitor was not revolutionary, given that SkyTrak competitors proved to be very accurate. However, with a much more compact piece of hardware that could break the mold in the golfing industry, SkyTrak wanted a software counterpart that was just as innovative. We saw an opportunity here to bring something fresh to the table. The launch monitor technology could provide a whole wealth of data, but the data was exported in an Excel sheet that had color coded cells and columns that matched up with rows to discern a specific metric. It made our heads spin simply glancing at it. The challenge, then, was to visually represent the data in a way that was valuable to the user. And that? That’s the kind of challenge we love to dive into.
A 360° Approach
Before we could dive into the software component of SkyTrak, we had to understand the hardware component. We spent time with both SkyTrak and the hardware developer researching what golfers actually wanted and valued in the data that they were getting from existing launch monitors. There was a ton of data available, but not everything was relevant to golfers and, as we discovered, golfers didn’t want to to be inundated with all the data. They wanted the metrics they cared about. Through several exploratory sessions and strategy meetings, we took all the ideas each stakeholder had envisioned and smartly whittled it down, based on our user research findings, to what would become the feature set for initial launch. The SkyTrak box would connect to wifi while simultaneously connecting with the software, which would be available on iPad upon launch. After the hardware was successfully developed, we re-entered the process to develop the software to compliment the box. We re-visited the user experience that we had set out to establish upon the development of the launch monitor box and made the decision, collectively, that developing in Unity would be an ideal solution with its 3D capabilities and its cross-platform compatibility.
“It’s fascinating working at the intersection of hardware and software.”Sky McElroy, Lead Producer
Connecting the Dots Across the GlobeThe complexity of SkyTrak meant that we needed a software solution that was robust, giving SkyTrak the ability to expand upon its platform moving forward. The box communicates the collected data with the device, an iPad for launch, the device processes the data to visually depict the output, and then the device communicates with the Cloud to save the user’s data in the user’s account. To ensure that we were successful in our endeavors, we worked closely with the hardware developers in Singpore as well as the freelancers in New Jersey and Texas whom we cherry-picked from our extensive network of freelancers to handle the physics engines and 3D play involved in visualizing the data.
The involvement of multiple parties meant that we were faced with the challenge of managing the process smoothly with developers, product designers, and key stakeholders in different parts of the world. Despite this, we were able to navigate these waters successfully by ensuring transparency through thorough communication on a daily basis. We worked agilely, constantly checking and course-correcting to ensure that the software was compatible with the hardware, and that the strategically designed user interface was still easy-to-use and visually appealing for the end user. Each sprint was extensively tested by all parties. We transformed the loading dock in our office into a testing room, setting up a net and taking turns swinging at balls to ensure that our software not only worked seamlessly with the hardware, but that the data collected was validated. We would not have been able to work in such an agile manner had it not been wonderful partners we had, not only in each third party vendor, but in our clients at SkyTrak.
A Solution That is Portable, Affordable & Usable
SkyTrak weighs less than two pounds and boasts up to five hours of continuous use, with the free application available in the Apple store for the iPad. Users can take advantage of SkyTrak pretty much anywhere they can hit a golf ball - in the backyard at home, at their buddy’s place, or out on the range. All the results from every shot are visually displayed on the user’s SkyTrak dashboard and saved in their SkyTrak account so that they can track their improvement over time. One of the things that was most important to SkyTrak was to create a product that could sustain a reasonable price point while remaining sleek and accurate. We were able to accomplish this with the product priced at $2,000, a far cry from its nearest competitor, priced at $8,000. The product launched with iPad compatibility, but because we built it in Unity, there are more platforms planned for the future, which will give more golfers the opportunity to use a portable launch monitor at an incredibly competitive price.
Results: The Sky’s the Limit
Upon launch, the SkyTrak launch monitor was met with a lot of positive buzz. It’s the first launch monitor of its kind, being much more compact than its competitors and available at a fraction of the price. Not only has it been featured in ESPN’s Holiday Gift Guide and various trade publications, touted as both accurate and affordable, it has been endorsed by renowned golf experts such as Hank Haney and Joe Hallett. It has been such a success that SkyTrak is rapidly adding new features and has already expanded the experience onto different platforms with both PC and Android offerings. Our friends at SkyTrak are super excited about it and so are we. We’ve helped to create a product that enhances the golf experience and, in partnership with SkyTrak, we’ve helped golfers everywhere improve their game.
SkyTrak has since partnered with 6 of the top golf simulation software companies so users can play simulated golf at home using SkyTrak. To date, SkyTrak has uploaded over 45 million shots to the cloud!