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New measuring app expected to give boccia a boost

Rio Paralympics participant Takayuki Hirose, right, throws a ball at a boccia tournament in Japan on Nov. 26, 2016. (Mainichi)
This photo shows the app developed by CAC Corp., tentatively named as "Boccia Measure." The app measures the distance between the jack and other balls, to an accuracy of 0.1 of a millimeter. (Mainichi)

The sport known as boccia -- which is regularly contested at international tournaments such as the Paralympics -- is expected to benefit further following the development of a new app that can automatically measure the distance between boccia balls.

    Until recently, the distances between balls in boccia games had been measured manually -- but with the recent emergence of the automatic measuring app, named tentatively as "Boccia Measure" and developed by CAC Corp. -- manual measuring can now be a thing of the past.

    The new app is expected to make boccia easier to play, which should therefore contribute to the spread of the sport in the buildup to the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

    Boccia was suddenly catapulted into the limelight in Japan following the Japan boccia team's silver medal success at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in September.

    By installing the new app on a smartphone and then holding the phone over the balls, it will be possible to measure the distance between red and blue balls and the jack to an accuracy of 0.1 mm, in order of proximity to the jack. Also, an alarm sounds whenever the phone is not held horizontally, which will also ensure that an accurate measurement is made.

    CAC Holdings, the parent company of CAC Corp., is currently in the process of applying for a patent for the app. The company hopes that the app will enable participants to enjoy boccia in a lighthearted manner, although it is not yet known when the app will be used for official games.

    Kuniharu Okuda, president of the Japan Boccia Association, which is sponsored by CAC Holdings, stated, "Regardless of disability, if the number of boccia enthusiasts increases, then this should strengthen the national Paralympics team."

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    Boccia is a Latin word that means "ball." It was first adopted in Europe as a sport for people with severe cerebral palsy and limb dysfunction, and its first appearance at the Paralympics was at the 1984 Paralympics in New York. The objective is to throw balls toward the jack, and to score points by positioning balls close to the jack. The teams are split into blue and red, and a match consists of either 4 ends (singles or pairs) or 6 ends (teams), whereby an end consists of each side throwing 6 balls.

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