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Video analysis software allows users to compare their skills with the All Blacks

A locally-developed sports website could help unearth and train the next generation of All Blacks.

Rugby sportswizards is a video analysis software program which allows rugby players and coaches to upload films of players performing a certain skill, and then compare that performance to an expert — an All Black player.

Users can use a video camera or even a late-model mobile phone to record the video, says Steve Goodlass, head of IT at siliconcoach, the Dunedin-based company behind the software.

First, users can view the All Black player demonstrate the desired skill. Then, users can compare themselves with the professional player by watching the uploaded video alongside the video of the All Black. Finally, users obtain a report with information and feedback on how well they have completed the skill compared with the All Black and NZRU guidelines, says Goodlass.

The Rugby sportswizards website was launched a couple of weeks ago.

When Goodlass joined siliconcoach in 2000, he was the first employee other than the founder. The company develops sports analysis software designed to analyse motion, enhance performance, and reduce the risk of injury, says Goodlass.

“Previously, our software was based on Delphi but now we are really embracing .Net — .Net 3.0 and the Visual Studio environment,” he says.

The company has five developers.

Goodlass and his team decided to take the plunge and start using Windows Presentation Foundation for building the Rugby sportswizards software.

“We needed to provide a really compelling interface,” he says. “This was our first foray into what we would call a low-cost, consumer product that needed to look really cool, because it was aimed at a younger market,” he says. “At that point, WPF seemed to be the natural fit.”

Goodlass investigated using other platforms, such as Adobe Flash, but he felt like it was going to take a lot of effort to get up to speed with using it.

“Whereas when we were looking at WPF, I thought: ‘that’s cool, I can go and code in C#’. I’m really used to that and I know that I can get other developers that can deal with C#, even someone coming from a Java background would be in there really easily,” he says.

The benefit of WPF is that it allows developers to create “really wicked” user interfaces in a short amount of time, says Goodlass.

“If we had tried this in Windows Forms it would have taken much longer,” he says. “The biggest issue [with WPF] is, how do you not get carried away?” he adds. The challenge is to keep the interface simple and to stick to functionality that users are familiar with, he says, and not to get carried away with animations and cool features.

“You have got this wonderful toolbox but you have got to keep the grip on what it is you want to do,” he says.

“It is a massive paradigm shift for developers, going from Windows Forms to using WPF,” says Goodlass. “It was scary. Being the oldest developer on the team I was going ‘oh my goodness, what is this’,” he says.

But once you get your head around it, it is really simple to use, he says.

Goodlass, a Phys Ed graduate, did his PhD in a crossover between physical education and information science, he says. He is a self-taught programmer.

“Believe it or not, it is actually getting easier to programme now, but there is so much more that you can do now,” he says.

WPF is built on top of .Net and supported inside of Vista, says Nigel Parker, UX development advisor at Microsoft New Zealand. It is also supported on XP service pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 client machines, he says.

“WPF has got great tooling, which enables designers and developers to work together to build next-generation user experiences,” says Parker.

For example, WPF has been used to change the way users read text on screen, he says. The New York Times has built applications for reading the newspaper offline, on multiple devices and at different screen resolutions, he says.

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