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CyLab Researchers Tackle the Gridiron’s Greatest Curse

American football is a challenging sport. Its gladiators must not only overpower each other, they must overcome extreme weather, hostile crowds, painful injuries, and numerous other adversities.

But of all these Herculean challenges, the one that leaves the bitterest taste, the one that stings the most, the hurt that lingers longest is the game-changing bad call.

Whether you live in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, or Tampa Bay, if you are a football fan there is surely some grave injustice that you have watched over and over again on the video tape, helpless and appalled. There are a lot of people, from riverboat gamblers to little children, who would love to see this curse lifted.

Well, over the last few decades, we have seen digital technology revolutionize everything from the operating room to the television studio, and there is no good reason it can’t revolutionize professional sports. At least that is what CyLab Mobility Research Center Co-Director Priya Narasimhan and her students think; and a feature in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains what they are doing about it.

Here is a brief excerpt, with a link to the full text:

Dr. Narasimhan is a computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and she and her students are equipping gloves and a football with remote sensing technology to measure everything from grip and trajectory to speed and position.

... the technology would ultimately be able to tell without doubt whether the ball was caught before it bounced off the ground.

It could also show such things as who actually has the ball in a pileup, whether a runner has crossed the goal line inside a mass of humanity and whether a receiver has control of the ball before he goes out of bounds.

Dr. Narasimhan teaches a course at Carnegie Mellon in "embedded real-time systems," which is a fancy way of describing the kind of touch sensors, GPS receivers and accelerometers that the students are putting to use...

So far, she and her squad of undergraduate and graduate students have focused on two things: gloves with touch sensors that can transmit that information wirelessly to a computer, and a football equipped with a global positioning receiver and accelerometer that can track the location, speed and trajectory of the ball.

Eventually, the same kind of sensors used in the gloves could be adapted to shoes, to measure stride and running patterns, or even shoulder pads, to calculate blocking positions and force.

Mark Roth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12-17-08

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