Sensor-equipped footballs could help refs and players

Dec 19, 2008 by Lisa Zyga weblog
Equipped with a GPS receiver and accelerometer, a football could help refs make calls such as whether the ball was caught before it hit the ground, or if a player had possession before fumbling. Image credit: Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

(PhysOrg.com) -- When Dr. Priya Narasimhan moved to Pittsburgh seven years ago, she fell in love with the people, the city, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the Carnegie Mellon computer engineering professor grew up in India and Africa, she became passionate about the American sport of football, including its bad calls and referees' human error.

After getting tired of throwing things at the TV during unfair calls, Narasimhan wondered if it would be possible to improve the accuracy of the referees' decisions by adding sensor technology to the instant replays. She began working on a way to equip the football with a GPS receiver and an accelerometer that could help refs make calls such as whether the ball was caught before it hit the ground, or if a player had possession before fumbling. She has also designed gloves with 15 touch sensors that wirelessly transmit data to a computer. The data can show a player's grip by sensing which parts of the glove are in contact with ball at any given time, and provide information on how an individual player throws the ball.

Narasimhan hopes that the technology will be used for training referees and players, and possibly scouting. She doesn't intend for the electronics to take any of the fun out of the game.

"You'd never want to replace the human referees because they make these calls based on years of experience, and no technology can replace that," she said. "But in addition to the instant replay, if you had a supplementary system that said this is exactly where the ball landed and where the player stopped with it, you could make these kinds of calls accurately."

Besides being used in games, the technology could be used to help coaches, for instance, when they need to replace a second-string quarterback. Potential replacements could wear the sensor-laden gloves while throwing and running, and coaches could tell how the players react in different situations. "You could have whoever you're scouting wear these gloves and you could ask, well, does he throw the same way under the same defensive schemes or does he run the same way and make the same kind of cuts as a terrific running back does?" she said.

The technology still needs improvement to be useful, though. The current prototype transmits information just once a second and is only accurate to within 30 feet. Narasimhan and her students are working on a newer prototype that can transmit information four times per second and combine data from fixed GPS receivers near the field for greater accuracy.

Besides the ball and gloves, sensors could one day be added to players' shoes to measure running stride and patterns, or in shoulder pads to calculate blocking positions and force. Narasimhan hopes to work with a college or pro team to get players' input on what kind of information would be most helpful for improving their game.

via: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Gizmodo

© 2008 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Google building fleet of package-delivering drones

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Watching others play video games is the new spectator sport

2 hours ago

As the UK's largest gaming festival, Insomnia, wrapped up its latest event on August 25, I watched a short piece of BBC Breakfast news reporting from the festival. The reporter and some of the interviewees appeared baff ...

Where's the real value in Tesla's patent pledge?

Aug 20, 2014

With the much-anticipated arrival next month of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla's Model S to Australian shores, it's a good time to revisit Tesla's pledge to freely share patents. ...

Online sites shake up hidebound retailing in India

Aug 14, 2014

Finding a way into India's vast but vexing market has long frustrated foreign retailers. Now, overseas investors are pouring billions of dollars into e-commerce ventures that are circumventing the barriers holding back retail ...

IT outsourcing boom boosts struggling Bulgaria

Aug 10, 2014

Excellent IT and language skills have helped Bulgaria's outsourcing sector boom, raising hopes that it could prop up the badly stagnating economy of the EU's poorest country.

Recommended for you

China's Alibaba plans IPO for week of September 8

16 hours ago

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans to hold its initial public offering on the US stock market the week of September 8, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Tablet sales slow as PCs find footing

17 hours ago

Tablets won't eclipse personal computers as fast as once thought, according to studies by market tracker International Data Corporation (IDC).

Startups offer banking for smartphone users

17 hours ago

The latest banks are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Startups, such as Moven and Simple, offer banking that's designed specifically for smartphones, enabling users to track their spending on the go. Some things ...

FIXD tells car drivers via smartphone what is wrong

Aug 29, 2014

A key source of anxiety while driving solo, when even a bothersome back-seat driver's comments would have made you listen: the "check engine" light is on but you do not feel, smell or see anything wrong. ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Photic
4.5 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2008
Instead of an accelerometer and GPS within the ball I think a simpler and more cost effective idea would be to create a series of sensors around the field and place two RFID tags in the ball at the tips. It would allow for constant triangulation of the ball with less components/weight and those could be further decreased with chipless RFID (when/if they become viable).
humanist
1.5 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2008
Anyone who doesn't have a finger in an orifice would know that any attempt to thwart "the fix" in the NFL is doomed to failure.

There is simply too much money involved for the NFL to be straight.