What football fan hasn't, at one time or another, wanted to throw something through the TV screen when a referee miscalled a play that cost their team the game.
Priya Narasimhan, a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, put her frustrations to good use. The associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept. and 15 undergraduate students are immersed in a series of research projects to design a
that would deliver enhanced, real-time tracking and motion analysis. The goal — to eliminate ambiguities that result in decisions that adversely impact the outcome of the game.
The “Myron” smart football project uses a combination of sensors, wireless protocols, embedded devices and 3-D software to track the football in real time, even when it's obscured under a pile of players. Unlike other sports that employ camera systems to track ball movement, football is unique in that it's not always clear who has possession of the ball or if the ball was caught before it actually hit the ground. “You need to have the ball talk back to you to see where it landed,” Narasimhan says.
Currently, CMU's smart football leverages touch sensors, GPS receivers and accelerometers to do just that. Using measurements like trajectory and acceleration, the smart football calculates its position and Zigbee wireless communications capabilities relay that information to a computer, where it can be tracked and visualized using a homegrown animation and 3-D visualization engine.
The Myron smart football project is still in the research stage, but Narasimhan's engineering team is planning to launch pilot tests this fall with Carnegie Mellon's own Tartans Div. 3 football team. The team is also working on smart gloves that employ similar technology to determine, for example, exactly how someone caught a ball, facts that could come in handy on calls related to control versus possession. Both the smart ball and smart gloves have training applications, as well, helping coaches and individuals assess their performance.