At a time when sport has been curtailed and operated in restricted environments, innovators in the cricketing domain are developing a new and improved cricket ball for blind and visually impaired players.
Known as one of the greatest wicketkeepers in history, Ian Healy’s contributions to Blind Bats Inc and their newest venture in Beep Cricket promotes increased sporting accessibility for the blind and vision impaired.
Blind cricket has been played as a competitive sport in Australia since 1922. The major adaption is the ball, which is slightly larger than a standard cricket ball and traditionally filled with ball bearings or bells to provide audible cues.
The biggest challenge for the game is when the ball stops moving in the field and no longer makes a sound.
Blind Bats Inc president Paul Szep, an avid supporter of blind cricket, became aware of the traditional Kookaburra Smartball and its technology, then devised the idea of a continuous beeping cricket ball that’s remotely controlled by a phone app.
The design has to repeatedly withstand the punishment of a cricket bat, without damaging the internal electronics and requires keeping the ball at a reasonable weight and size.
With the assistance of local community and government grants, Szep presented his idea to Kookaburra Sport and Sportcor, the developers of the world’s first Kookaburra SmartBall technology. The technology features an embedded micro-chip within a cricket ball to provide cricketers with real-time feedback.
Using this same technology and with the support of Kookaburra, development moved forward in designing a new audible ball that would meet the games regulatory requirements.
To test and validate the design, 3D printing has long been a popular medium for producing presentation and functional prototypes, and more recently volume manufacturing.
With a long-standing history in 3D printing and contract manufacturing, local manufacturer GoProto helped Kookaburra achieve the desired results using a combination of stereolithography (SLA) and traditional moulding technologies.
GoProto general manager James Sanders has worked with Kookaburra Sport on a number of projects over the years.
“Professional 3D printing and moulding technologies have enabled sporting goods manufacturers, like Kookaburra, to develop sports equipment that’s lighter and better suited to the needs of the athlete,” Sanders said.
“The technology and materials used in creating the Beeping cricket ball has the ability to cement social cohesion and greater participation.”
Beeping cricket balls will soon be unveiled in an upcoming Blind Bats cricket match and showcase the many possibilities available for other visually impaired sports, such as oz tag, basketball and soccer.
To listen to a podcast between Szep and cricketing legend Ian Healy, click here.