FastPong: How Artificial Intelligence based Table Tennis Coaching by a former Junior National player is going to change the game.

VJCV: It is not always that you come up with an idea and then suddenly it becomes a great solution considering the global pandemic scenario. How do you see your product helping people now ?

Amir Kamandi: Hope everyone stays safe. That is what I am praying for now. I am happy that going ahead, when things get better at some point in time, people can start using FastPong to learn / enhance their Table Tennis skills.

“Use FastPong to practice Table Tennis & send the statistics to your coach without meeting face to face. Keep Learning, Stay Safe, Stay Active” – says Amir Kamandi, the former junior national champion who is the brain behind FastPong.

Indeed this is the need of the hour. FastPong will help people to keep learning Ping Pong & still maintain Social Distancing.

2001: A 9 year old table tennis player was making news across Iran by winning matches at the National level tournaments. As any sports loving youngster, this young talented boy was committed to the game.

2021: Amir Kamandi, that young talented boy is back in the news. This time for giving back to the game that helped him go places during his school days.

Amir Kamandi, the Founder and CEO of FastPong – Seoul based Startup, is now helping the young generation improve their playing skills. In the last 4-5 years, we have seen the impact of technology on various Sports. Player stamina, work out sessions, match strategies, smart stadiums, fan engagement are all seeing a drastic change , courtesy technology.

FastPong uses Artificial Intelligence to analyze the strengths and weakness of the player & personalize the training program to bring out the best in each player. FastPong uses Machine Learning to determine the duration of training to improve the skills.

While interviewing a person who has his roots in Iran, the tea lover in me had to start the discussions around Irani Chai. In India especially in Mumbai (the city where I spent most of time in the last two decades), Irani restaurants are famous. So I started the interview with a question about the Iranian cuisine and Amir’s views about them. It was indeed a pleasure when Amir said “My mother has visited India and she told me that it is a great place where you get to see diverse cultures, cuisines, etc. I would like to visit India some time in the near future.”

VJCV: From when did you start playing Table Tennis ? Did you represent Iran in the National or International Level Tournaments ?

AK : Since I was 9 years old and I represented Iran in International games.

VJCV: Where did you complete your education ?

AK: Seoul National University, South Korea

VJCV: How did you move to Seoul ?

AK: When I was studying my Bachelor’s degree, I made a proposal with my professor & applied for grant. But that got rejected. When I finished my Bachelor degree, I sent proposal to my professor at Seoul National University to study the motor control of table tennis players. This professor liked my proposal and accepted it. That brought me to Seoul.

VJCV: Whose idea was behind FastPong ?

AK: It was my idea. I had this in my back of my mind. My experience as national table tennis player and my study of table tennis players helped me to conceive this concept.

VJCV: How long you had to work on the thought before you decided to go ahead with FastPong ?

AK: It was a long plan. First I needed to have scientific evidence that this type of training can be beneficial. I needed to make such a device and then test my hypothesis. Basically I’m working around FastPong since 2014 but at first it was just a scientific research work which now has turned it to entrepreneurial journey.

VJCV: Why did you choose this brand name – FastPong ?

AK: I wanted to keep it simple and keep the message about the brand very clear. Our device will make the player Faster in Pingpong. Hence FastPong.

VJCV: Technology is changing a lot of things around us. Do you feel that Sports and Sports related activities will also undergo a transition ?

AK: If you look around you can see technology is everywhere but we still play sport in the same way that our parents play and train the game. That’s why young people play more e -sport now than the actual sport, why? Because they can interact with the online game in their own way.

VJCV: Do you feel brands like FastPong can attract youngsters to play more physical sports?

AK: FasstPong is an interactive table tennis training machine which uses hardware / data analytics and software. The current young generation likes to hear / interact while playing games. FastPong will bring in the nuances of the sound sensation from the eSports world. This will definitely be an add on attraction to get the best of both worlds.

VJCV: How big is the team that is working with FastPong ?

AK: Currently we have a small team of 7 and slowly expanding. When I moved to Seoul University , I got introduced to Jongha Yu and together we were able to come out with the product.

Amir with Co-Founder & CTO, Jongha Yu & Business Manager, Catherine Hong
Amir with Catherine Hong & Raad Shariat, the man behind all Softwares

VJCV: Who else is supporting you financially in this Startup ?

AK: Our company is supported by Korea Technology Finance Corporation (KIBO), Seoul Business Agency (SBA), Seoul Global Startup Center (SGSC) and Seoul National University. We were initially working from the campus of Seoul National University and now have moved our office to Seoul Global Startup Center.

VJCV: Any players have used FastPong and managed to improve their game ?

AK: As of now around 20 players have used our product for a period of 7 weeks. There has been improvement of up to 31% seen in players.

VJCV: What are the areas in which improvements can be expected after using FastPong ?

AK: There are 3 key areas in Table Tennis / Ping Pong game. Reaction Time, Decision Making and Accuracy. By using FastPong, players can improve on all these three areas.

VJCV: Is this one of a kind product in the market and how does this work?

AK: We have already applied for patent for this technology. It is an interactive table tennis training board using LED lighting and feedback system by dedicating where the response balls land and receive the performance data of the users. It provides visual stimuli training, reaction time training, decision-making training, and accuracy training.

VJCV: Who is your target segment ? The individual players or coaches ?

AK: Individual players can also buy this product. But we are looking at selling most of our product to coaches. It will be a subscription based model. Coaches will be able to help lot of players at one time. We want coaches to recover the cost of the device at the earliest. This also will reduce the amount that needs to be spend by individual players on coaching. Coach can use our App to check the performance of each player and give them personalized training.

VJCV: Do you see any other segment of customers benefiting from using FastPong ?

AK: Elderly people who want to keep themselves agile can use FastPong to make sure that their reaction time and decision making time is kept at a good level irrespective of the age.

VJCV: Are you in touch with the Iran Table Tennis association and showcased FastPong to them ?

AK: Yes. I am in touch with them and hope this will help in enhancing the game of the current as well as future players.

VJCV: By when are you planning to start selling this to players / coaches ?

AK: We have already received many orders. The plan is to launch by March 2019. Details about this can be found on website.

VJCV: What are your future plans?

AK: We are working on Kinetics as well. This is in the development stage and should hit the market by end of 2020. It will help in improving the body movements of the player. In addition to this , we want to replicate this to other sports like tennis as well.

VJCV: How has been the journey so far for you ?

AK: From an athlete to a researcher and an entrepreneur, it has been challenging and yet a joyful ride. I will continue striving for the development of sports with the help of technology.

From a 9 year old boy who loved playing Ping Pong to the entrepreneur who would love to see more people using FastPong, life has come a full circle for Amir Kamandi.

Sports will see more such brands coming up in the near future. The way in which technology has changed its face in the last few years will help many areas of Sports. Be it in Coaching or in game Strategy, Technology can make an impact. Same is the case with fan engagement and use of technologies like VR, AR and XR to give an experiential feeling to everyone involved with Sports. SportsTech is pacing itself to sprint its journey in the coming years and hope to see lot of positive impacts.

“Learning Korean is still a tough game for me but the Universal language of Sports has helped me in making my dream come true.” – Amir Kamandi

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This interview is part of PAC Talks with VJCV Series.

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