Steve Nash's Apple appearance is this year's Shigeru Miyamoto moment

MANILA, Philippines – In all honesty, there was little that shocked at Apple's September 2018 keynote.

The gadgets we expected – the phones and the watch – made their dutiful appearances, and we were all treated to Apple's usual A-game presentations, hype-building pronouncements, and the crowd's abject cheering. This is the era of leaks, so much of what Apple announced last night, they were a Google search away weeks and days before the event. 

But what tipsters, leakers, and gadget sleuths don't have the predilection yet for predicting are the surprise appearances from luminaries in a different scene.

Two years ago, that was Shigeru Miyamoto, announcing the game Super Mario Run for iOS, an appearance that elicited gleeful surprise because of the man's street cred and because it was the first time that the beloved Mario franchise is appearing on a smartphone.

For those who were watching, it was a fun diversion from the all the number and figures and arrows pointing at a cold, metallic device. 

This year, that moment belonged to basketball legend Steve Nash, who showed off an app that will truly make basketball hobbyists want to get an iPhone XS. It's called Homecourt, and it's a tool meant for improving one's basketball shot.

The app is able to analyze a person shooting a basketball around a court.

To use, just put the phone on a tripod, start recording, and the app comes up with all sorts of shooting data. 

Homecourt detects the playing area, including where the 3-point line is, and what's inside the line and what's outside. It can track the player and automatically record when they take a shot, and whether they miss it or not, along with other metrics including the angle at which the shot is taken, the release height, release time, and leg angle.

Like a videogame, the app also records shot charts, which show the makes and misses in a particular area on the court:

SHOT CHART. The app shows makes and misses according to the spot on the floor.

SHOT CHART. The app shows makes and misses according to the spot on the floor.

From there, a player can use the recorded data to spot patterns, spot areas where the shot isn't falling, and whether they're shooting at too high or too low an arc. 

The demo was short, but it's a testament to where smartphones are now. It runs on Apple's CoreML, its machine learning platform. Through machine learning, through the data it's been fed about shots, angles, and what a basketball court looks like, the app is able to do what it does like a shooting assistant monitoring a pro basketball player. 

The app is also said to be somewhat of an exclusive to the new iPhones with the new A12 Bionic chip.

Of course, improvement is still up to how hard a player works, but it's great to see that data-driven training is trickling down to more consumer devices. Many fitness devices now can track several metrics when swimming or running. Homecourt could be an example of the next step for the category – sports with more complicated movements and accoutrements such as a ball and a hoop.

NASH AND LEE. Basketball legend Steve Nash and CEO of app developer Nex Team announce the new app.

NASH AND LEE. Basketball legend Steve Nash and CEO of app developer Nex Team announce the new app.

Athletic apparel giant Adidas once equipped an entire arena with cameras to track the movements of its endorser, James Harden, to gather movement data for use in the modeling of his basketball shoes. The Homecourt app shows that there is potential for such technology to be miniaturized, straight into the hands of masses. That's a win for technology, and for the end user.

The app is expected to arrive during the United States' fall season. Like the gamers who eagerly awaited Super Mario Run two years ago, hoops fans have a little something to keep in mind, in case they're looking for a new phone this year.

Nash co-presented with David Lee, the CEO of Nex Team and not the NBA player of the same name.   – Rappler.com

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.

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