Tennis champion Andy Murray shares pro-athlete perspective of user experience of wearable technology

Professional tennis player Andy Murray has a passion for wearable technology and provided Smithers Apex with an exclusive interview into the user experience of wearable technology through the eyes of a professional athlete.

Smithers Apex: What’s your opinion on form factor exploration of wearable technologies (location on the body, the possibility of these devices becoming invisible) as we move toward technology on the body becoming nearly invisible? How would this affect your usage?

Andy Murray: As a tennis player, I need to feel that whatever I have on isn’t affecting my game. I guess different sports will have different views on that – an NFL player is used to wearing a lot of kit, so a sensor to him might be no big deal. But in a sport like mine, it’s very different.

Looking at it from a different angle, It would be possible, probably, to have a sensor in my racket right now. It’s just the body is a very different challenge. So yeah, I think the smaller sensors – ones that stick to you and you almost forget about – will be game changing. And like I said, things that work for me in terms of comfort will work for anyone. We all want to be comfortable with what we wear after all.

Smithers Apex: Why does wearable technology seem so attractive to professional athletes like yourself? Do you think it’s the possibility of augmenting your experience, the ability to quantify your performance, the access to data or something entirely different?

Andy Murray: It depends. I think it’s hard to tell where wearables will go in the next year, let alone the next ten. They’ll make our lives easier, whether that’s playing tennis or knowing more about our health. For me, I’m interested in how it can make playing sport, and watching sport easier and more enjoyable. But longer term I think things like health and medicine are pretty interesting areas.

Smithers Apex: As a professional athlete, what hardware/software features of a wearable technology would make up your dream user experience in a professional tennis match?

Andy Murray: Well we have access to data now. Elite athletes use that already, so that idea isn’t particularly new to us. The big difference is what you do with it, and how much could be shared with spectators or viewers.

Tennis does a good job with taking data that’s interesting,and sharing it live. Things like your distance covered in a rally, your top speed, speed of serve etc. But all of a sudden it’s possible to get 3D displays of swing patterns with Wearables. There’s things coming out now that change stats from being a sort of ‘wow’ moment to actually educating. Then you have the ability to measure heart rate and stress too. I mean, some of things athletes won’t be happy to share, but the potential is exciting.

Smithers Apex: Where do you see the most growth potential for wearable technologies for sports, health and wellness applications?

Andy Murray: I think sports will be big to start with. The people who can make their technology make you better will do well. But I think health and wellness will ultimately be huge, and there’s a big crossover there. The things that help sportspeople measure their fitness and their health today might end up being key to wellness and medical apps that save people’s lives one day. To me, that’s very exciting. Personally I think it’s great that we have a role to play in taking that story to people.

Smithers Apex: As one of the world’s top athletes you’re constantly on display. If you could talk to apparel companies, technology providers, or startups, what would you like to see in terms of your user experience that would make you covet these devices and wear them proudly?

Andy Murray: Well first and foremost I love the possibilities. It’s easy to get frustrated that the ideal answers aren’t there just now. I actually think we’re very nearly there, and I’d love to help develop that with people who see it the same way.

Ultimately though I use technology because it helps me understand what I’m doing, and helps me improve. If it doesn’t do that, I won’t bother. And I’m no different to anyone else on that.

The coveted question is a different one, because that’s a question of looks as much as anything. Looking around at the moment, you’d probably say not many people have cracked it. But it will come, and if it works for me, I’d love to be wearing it.