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Hackers create digitally assisted billiards

Hackers create digitally assisted billiards

The system uses a webcam to analyse the shot and a projector to overlay a visualisation of the balls' trajectories.

If, like me, you've always wanted to be a pool shark but have been hampered by a complete lack of natural talent, then the technology could be here to lend you a helping hand.

Over on Hack a Day they're showing a project created by Justin Needham and Matthew Straub of the Georgia Institute of Technology called “Digitally Assisted Billiards.” By hooking a camera and a projector up to an e-Box 2300 PC, the pair are able to visualise the trajectory of balls on the table before they are hit in a view that will be terribly familiar to anyone who played Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker.

The camera, positioned in the corner of the room due to a lack of budget for a wide-angle lens that would allow it to be mounted directly above the table, records the field of play and sends the data to the e-Box. When the image is received – and corrected for keystone – the pair's homebrew code analyses the shot and draws lines of trajectory for the projector to overlay onto the playing surface.

The code includes some interesting workarounds for issues the pair encountered during construction: as well as correction for the aforementioned keystone issues caused by the location of the camera, the pair used a mirror mounted to plywood to spread the projector's image to cover the entire table and needed to correct the distortions the not-entirely-flat reflective surface produced.

Built in Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, the work is a fascinating look at how augmented reality systems can change the world around you; plus an even more fascinating look at how far a geek will go to win a game of pool.

Has the pair's work inspired you to have a go at your own augmented reality project, or are you just looking forward to when you can get the system built in to a pair of glasses and really clean up at the pool club? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

11 Comments

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_DTM2000_ 12th December 2008, 11:51 Quote
That's awesome. I just wish I had tons of spare cash so I could donate a few grand to them so they could get some better equipment.
proxess 12th December 2008, 12:08 Quote
now all they need to know is how to hit the ball in a straight line without spinning it.
Flibblebot 12th December 2008, 12:24 Quote
Exactly. It still can't control whereabouts on the cue ball you hit, nor the power with which you hit the it. But that information is vital to calculating the trajectories of the balls, so what kind of assumptions are they making when they draw the lines?
Gareth Halfacree 12th December 2008, 13:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flibblebot
Exactly. It still can't control whereabouts on the cue ball you hit, nor the power with which you hit the it. But that information is vital to calculating the trajectories of the balls, so what kind of assumptions are they making when they draw the lines?
I would imagine they're making the "hit the cue ball dead centre, medium force" kind of assumptions. Hey, it's a student project - not a billion-dollar NASA project.

Not that NASA don't make some 'interesting' assumption sometimes...
Flibblebot 12th December 2008, 13:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
..."hit the cue ball dead centre, medium force"...
Which assumes a level of skill far exceeding my own :D
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Not that NASA don't make some 'interesting' assumption sometimes...
Yes, but in NASA terms, 1.3mm is a massive error :p
ParaHelix.org 12th December 2008, 15:37 Quote
Is it just me or does this defeat the object of the game lol
Burdman27911 12th December 2008, 20:42 Quote
It looks like it does really simple geometric calculations with angles to get an assumed trajectory, that's something I essentially do in my own head when looking at a pool table (but I am obviously not as accurate nor can guess beyond maybe one ball combo). It doesn't take into account any english (spin on the ball) and as mentioned before would require someone to hit the ball straight with no spin, which means it really not going to be a big help to someone's game other than teaching them to visualize where things will end up. I decent pool player with no assistance will be better than an 'newb' using this system.

Interesting, but not really that useful (and certainly not practical)
HourBeforeDawn 12th December 2008, 21:18 Quote
well this is not entirely accurate, does it take into account backspin? pressure? a bit of english spin? table material, and so forth, sorry but something like this is nothing more then geometry and well if you cant figure out something like where the que ball is going to impact and so on then wow talk about a serious lack of spacial perception.
chicorasia 13th December 2008, 00:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flibblebot
nor the power with which you hit the it.

You can always duct tape a wiimote to the cue stick,
HourBeforeDawn 13th December 2008, 22:36 Quote
^^^ but that doesnt help until after you hit it unless your talking like golf and you get next to what your about to hit to take a practice swing then maybe that would be a bit more viable but there is still other factors that I already mentioned that need to be considered and Im sure could be taken care with more programing and so on.
InsidePOOLmag 13th December 2008, 23:39 Quote
It seems very good for what it is. I'd like to see it go further.
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