Business Alabama has been following the progress of Tennibot, the tennis court-roaming robot that uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to collect tennis balls, for some time. Besides being just plain cool, the device was fathered by Haitham Eletrabi, now CEO of Tennibot Inc., who devised it while earning his Master of Business Administration and Ph.D. in civil engineering from Auburn University. He also nurtured his product in the Auburn Business Incubator.
In April of this year, Tennibot launched on Kickstarter, setting a modest goal of $35, 000. The crowdfunding platform for specific, creative ideas lets inventors attract the amount of money they need to complete their project. Backers pledge money to support ideas they think are worthy. Rather than direct financial return, Kickstarter backers get what are termed “rewards, ” one-of-a-kind experiences from the project creator or limited editions of what’s being produced. Project creators keep 100 percent ownership of their creation and Kickstarter, under its rules of operation, can’t be used to offer equity, financial returns or solicitation of loans.
By early May, with 38 days to go, Tennibot had already gathered 78 backers pledging $54, 752 — more than the original $35, 000 goal.
The robot uses object detection, computer vision and artificial intelligence to detect tennis balls, while the app lets the player customize where on the court Tennibot will clear during a session. It collects up to 80 balls, works on both hard and clay courts and has a battery that lasts up to five hours on a single charge. Tennibot also automatically keeps track of the number of balls the player hits and how frequently they practice.
“Tennibot is the only robotic or autonomous solution that can pick up balls while you are playing, ” Eletrabi says. “Tennibot perfectly integrates computer vision and artificial intelligence to save tennis players, coaches and tennis clubs from wasted time and effort.”
The product has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine and has collected awards including the Tennis Industry Association Innovation Award and the 2018 Honoree Award from the Consumer Electronics Show.
Text by Dave Helms