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MIT Develops Shape-Shifting Basketball Hoop for Better Training

The research team built several prototypes geared towards efficient, adaptive learning.

Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) developed a shapeshifting basketball hoop that adapts to help train users' motor skills.

Make shots consistently, the hoop will shrink in diameter and go higher up the pole. Fail to make those shots and the opposite will happen, MIT News explains.

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Adaptive tools, adaptive training

The adaptive basketball hoop idea is part of a larger initiative by MIT CSAIL geared towards adaptive training tools for better learning.

Led by MIT Professor Stefanie Mueller, the researchers say that such tools could help people who don't have the means to afford coaches or personal training.

The team hopes that their idea might be particularly timely during the ongoing pandemic, with the cancellation of so many in-person gym activities.

Several other prototypes by the team include a bicycle with raisable training wheels, an armband that helps golfers keep their arms straight, adaptive life jackets, and even high-heeled shoes that adapt for different scenarios.

Experimental test results for the adaptive basketball hoop showed that training led to better performance than with traditional static basketball hoops.

As the study's lead author Dishita Turakhia points out, this is an indication that "aren’t all that good at assessing their skill levels," and therefore either over- or under-challenge themselves.

It could, of course, also mean that they simply don't have the means to adapt that challenge for themselves - traditional hoops being bolted tight to the backboard and all.

The first of many new adaptive tools

In any case, MIT CSAIL's new adaptive basketball hoop thankfully gives users the ability to work on their skills while continuously adapting the challenge.

The hoop uses a piezo pressure sensor in the backboard to detect the ball hitting the board, while a switch sensor is used to detect when the ball goes through the hoop.

MIT News explains that the system's algorithm for determining shot accuracy is somewhat basic at the moment — it gives users one point if the ball goes through the net, half a point if it hits the backboard. However, the researchers say that with a greater number of sensors and cameras, the hoop could sense a wider range of skills and adapt accordingly.

The team says it will continue to develop adaptive tools for other uses, including rehabilitation, workplace training, and perhaps even surgical practice.

That adaptive basketball hoop looks like a metaphor for the team at MIT CSAIL honing their skills for a future of adaptive, potentially groundbreaking projects.

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