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Appeared on: Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Golf Launchpad


1. Introduction

logoHow Realistic Can Computer Gaming Get?

Most computer games allow us to live in a world totally outside reality. Either we are transported to another time or age or we possess superhuman abilities about which we can only dream in reality. With regards to sports games, computer gaming allows us to hit the ball 500 feet, shoot twenty three pointers in a row and get a hole in one at Pebble Beach. What if we wanted a tad more reality, what could we do?

Well, Electric Spin is ready to test the limits of reality in gaming with the Golf Launchpad. I have been using the Launchpad for a couple of weeks now and I can safely say that I have never had so much fun and been so frustrated at the same time. The only reason I am frustrated is that this thing is so realistic, it truly mimics my real golf swing. Read on for a full review of this amazing golf simulator.

Here is a description of what the Electric Spin Golf Launchpad can do from the Electric Spin Web site:

What is Golf•Launchpad™

Golf•Launchpad is a family of home golf simulators for Windows / Mac ($249) and PlayStation2 ($199). Think of Golf•Launchpad as a high-quality golf pad or golf mat embedded with sensors and digital signal processing - effectively a specialized game controller for golf!

Attached to the rugged, low-profile, 3 Kg/7 lb unit is a tethered, regulation golf ball attached to a silky-smooth double ball-bearing mount for a completely authentic golf experience, right down to the thwack of your irons and the ping of your driver. Golf•Launchpad is the ultimate home golf simulator that allows you to create, with your large screen TV or projector, the ultimate indoor golf experience!

When you swing your clubs — wood, iron or putter — Golf•Launchpad measures your golf swing thousands of times each second (club head speed, path, angle) and translates this into information that EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour software renders on-screen with breathtaking realism and accuracy.

Use all the clubs in your bag, or if you’re restricted by ceiling height, substitute a shorter club for a longer one (most people can swing a 6-iron safely with 8 foot/2.3m ceilings), and enjoy the full-game from — driving to putting. Play golf at home on the world’s best golf courses with unbeatable comfort and convenience! Even tee off against competitors online!

Golf Launchpad/USB features

Also play on PlayStation2 with Golf Launchpad PlayStation2 Adapter (sold separately)

Golf Launchpad/PS2 Features


General Features

OK - got the idea? Now, I'll tell you my thoughts and experiences.

I should let you know that I am a pretty fair golfer - about an 18 handicap on most days and courses. I love the game, I have just never been able to "master" it. Winter in New England is still here and I have been itching to get on the course, so the Launch Pad showed up at the perfect time.

 


2. How it works - Conclusion

How it works?

Golf Launchpad's tethered ball has been designed to reproduce the impact-physics of a free ball to perfection. Not an easy task, as club head/ball collision is a complex phenomenon involving forces of up to a ton.

Utilizing a flexible tether (which permits the ball to spin) and a precisely calibrated pivot, Golf Launchpad's ball is designed to impart the same forces to the club as a free ball. This means that you feel and hear the thwack of your irons and the ping of your woods just as you would on the fairway. We call this TruFeel™ and it is the subject of several patent applications.

Optical sensors embedded deep under the turf track your club over the sensor grid during the critical moment of impact, measuring vast quantities of data off your club, such as angle, velocity, acceleration and path. Electric~Spin's state-of-the-art digital signal processing technology embedded in Golf Launchpad converts the mountains of raw data into pinpoint accuracy.

The Physics

Club head ball collision is a complex, violent phenomenon. Take a driver traveling at 120 mph, for instance. The collision with the golf ball lasts for less than one-half of a millisecond (1/2000 s) during which forces of up to a ton are imparted by the club-face to the ball. The ball is compressed and the two travel together for about an inch (25mm) before the ball recoils to leave the club face.

Golf Launchpad's tethered ball has been designed to reproduce the impact-physics of a free ball. Starting with a Dupont Surlyn golf ball (the same resin with which the best golf balls are made) that is mounted on a lightweight, flexible tether which permits the ball to spin, which is in turn mounted on an ultra-low friction, double ball-bearing mounted pivot, Golf Launchpad's tethered ball is designed to impart the same forces to the club as would a free ball. Which means that your hands feel and your ears hear what they should: the thwack of your irons and the ping of your woods, unmistakably reproduced for that exquisite playing experience.

The Computation

Swing, and the optical sensors embedded deep under the turf analyze the club-ball impact minutely, measuring vast quantities of data off your club, such as angle, velocity, path and so forth. Electric~Spin's proprietary digital signal processing algorithms, called a.li.an™ (short for Acceleration-Linear-Angular) deliver superb accuracy.

Electric~Spin's a.li.an™ algorithm has been engineered and robot tested for accuracy. After all, Electric~Spin's other business is building driving robots for the golf industry!

Design:

The Golf Launchpad consists of a Golf mat with built in sensors as described above. There is a rubber tee you can use for your drives that goes in the center of the mat. The ball is on a tether with a mesh "screen" behind it.

The Mat has sensors built in for driving, chipping and putting. The whole assembly just plugs into the computer via a USB cable which powers the sensors.

Set up:

Set up was a breeze. Just plug the game into the USB port and on my computer (running Vista) it detected the Launchpad as another Mouse and installed the proper driver automatically. I then installed the Golf Game and instead of swinging my "Mouse" I used my real clubs.

Game Play:

Load in the included Tiger Woods Golf Game from EA sports, set up the round, aim the shot and click the way one might normally to use the "Mouse Swing" on the computer. Take your club, hold it over the sensor until you see a green light and then address the ball, swing and pray.

Immediately after swinging, the on screen image (mine looks just like me) swings based on the club speed, club angle and positioning of your swing. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. I tend to hit a fade on most of my shots - well, unfortunately, the launchpad sensors picked up on that little secret and all my shots tailed off to the right. I was soon compensating for my fade (just like on the course.0

I will say that if I played as one of the pros on the "Novice" setting I could drive the ball 275 yards or more and I did not fade quite as much.

For a real test of reality, I downloaded several of the "user" designed courses available on the Internet. During the Master's I actually played Augusta and set the course conditions to what I was seeing in real life. My ball rolled right off the green on the 12th hole and right into the water. I finished up the final round at +6 - putting me out of contention for the Green Jacket.

It was a little unsettling at first taking out my clubs and taking full swings in my living room - but I soon realized that I wasn't going to hit anything and I got comfortable taking a full swing. Electric Spin does say that you can substitute your 6 iron for your Driver if space is a concern.

I cannot emphasize how realistic this is - you swing your real clubs, just like you do on the course. Full swings off the tee and in the fairway and a chipping swing near the green.

Putting:

For me, this was the only frustrating part of this device. I would line up my put, activate the putting sensor (which is front and center of the launch pad) and take a putting stroke. Often on short puts, however, the sensor would not kick in and I had to try again. On some very short puts I resorted to just using the mouse to sink those.

Fun Factor:

If you liked the Gyroscope and attachable gloves needed to play Real World Golf or if you enjoy taking your Wii remote and swinging it like a golf club, you owe it to yourself to try the Golf Launchpad. No other product that I have tested allows me to use my real clubs and take full swings. After 18 holes, you actually get tired (especially if you swing as much as I do!) I am having such a blast with this product.

There is also a downloadable driving range from the Electric Spin Web site that analyzes your swing and tells you how far your golf ball goes with various clubs at the virtual driving range. This was actually a great tool to help me work out the winter kinks in my swing.

Over all Conclusions:

This is a great product and a ton of fun. Aside from a few "putting glitches" I experienced quick and fluid game play. There is no substitute for the sound of a real club striking a real ball - and that is the sensation you get with the Electric Spin Launch Pad. For US$249.00 (US$199.00 for the PS2 version) you get to use every club in the bag and play "with and like" the pros.

 

Pros:

Cons:

The Golf Launchpad is available from the Electric Spin Web Site www.electricspin.com for US$249 for PC and Mac and US$199.00 for PS2. It is also available at various e-tailers.



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