Game-changing app ‘to transform snooker’ in new era

Revolutionary technology is set to transform the world of snooker as the professional sport comes to

Revolutionary technology is set to transform the world of snooker as the professional sport comes to terms with the after-effects of the coronavirus pandemic - Credit: Archant

Revolutionary technology is set to transform the world of snooker as the professional sport comes to terms with the after-effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

A game-changing app called VVR, or Virtual Versus Reality, will allow players to compete remotely against each other across the globe.

And while the shutdown of live sport has seen e-sports enter the mainstream, VVR will feature real tables – with the balls moving around in front of the players’ eyes.

So a trailblazer of the baize in China can take a shot and his opponent in London will see the balls move precisely to where they end up on the other side of the world.

Snooker balls are traditionally solid but the VVR versions have gyros and receivers inside and each ball has its own code, while the weighted balance will remain the same.

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Millions of microdots on the table act as locators on a grid. If a colour is potted, it will return to its designated position when placed on any part of the table.

The invention is the brainchild of Mark Harnell and his UK company We Are Creative and he said: “I came up with the idea in 2011 but the technology didn’t exist back then.

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“I created an app and I always wanted an app player to play against a real person. But when Covid-19 came along we used the same technology so that two real people can play.”

Even after the lockdown ends, the sporting landscape could be radically different for some time with the necessity to observe social distancing – and the future of travel up in the air.

Harnell added: “So now, instead of spending all that money flying around the world, you can stay at home and play – and stay safe.”

Harnell, who worked for boxing promoter Frank Warren for 12 years, developed the Power Snooker and Pool App in conjunction with Power Snooker, the format designed to invigorate snooker with the introduction of half-hour matches, the Power Ball and Power Play in 2010.

Mike Gruber, chief executive of Power Snooker Group Ltd, said: “I think Mark’s a genius. People who understand the science get it straight away, but most people say it’s extraordinary.

“I would like to see the world overcome this Covid and return to normality, but this technology enables people to play sport remotely.

“Right now it’s guesswork as to when spectators go back and whether they feel safe when they do so.”

Gruber believes VVR has the potential to revolutionise the trend in esports – and beyond.

“It has all kinds of possibilities, it has applications in darts, bowling and backgammon,” he added.

“It covers any sports so long as they are non-contact sports – even Formula One, though that would be much more complicated and expensive. It also may have potential medical benefits.”

In the wake of the pandemic, sports will be falling over themselves to keep up with the sea change they face, and VVR could offer a bright future for snooker with the next generation.

This invention, which incorporates a range of learning aids, has been endorsed by a promising young English player, 12-year-old Dylan Smith from Kent, who said: “It’s crazy, it’s going to be great if it works well.”

The cancellation of events has meant that Dylan’s progress has been hampered – while the chance to test himself against players across the globe would offer an excellent opportunity to improve his game.

“I think they should have tournaments with people around the world,” he added.

“I play against guys from China and places like that now, and if another thing like this coronavirus happens again we can keep playing.”

Dylan, who will compete in the last 16 of the England Under-14 Championships when they are rescheduled after the lockdown, said: “I think it will appeal to young players because it’s cool, it’s tech and a lot of kids my age like technology – it would help snooker to become more popular.”

Harnell believes VVR, which covers all cue sports including pool, can bring a fresh impetus to snooker.

“I always thought it was a bit boring, which is why I like Power Snooker,” he said.

“I think this could create new characters in the sport, which will help to attract a new and more diverse audience.”

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