Engineer Shane Wighton has created a smart basketball goal designed to ensure that every shot you throw up goes through the hoop. At its heart, the contraption is a room-scale, cable-operated robot with six degrees of freedom that moves the backboard and hoop using a system of pulleys.
Six 8HP motors were deployed to operate the cables, and Wighton used foam and fiberglass for the backboard as well as aluminum for the rim to keep weight to a minimum.
Supplying power to the rig was a problem as wall outlets alone weren’t up to the task. Wighton had to bring in a power distribution box fed by a high-power source, and even that wasn’t enough to run every motor at max power. That’s a good thing as running the rig at full power would just rip the cables to shreds.
On the electronics side, a microcontroller and tracking system was used to detect the basketball, predict where it is heading and move the goal into place to intercept the shot. As you can imagine, there is also a ton of math involved on the software side to determine when, where and how the hoop should be positioned to ensure the ball passes through it. It’s all quite fascinating and well worth a deeper dive if you’re into that sort of thing.
After lots of trial and error, Wighton realized he had to rework the ball tracking system to improve its accuracy. He also put some safety parameters in place so he wouldn’t have to worry about it “one-hit KO’ing” his wife.