Using Tech to Track Footballs
Ever watched a football game where your team just needs that first down and you are sure they made it, but the ruling is inches? In the future such calls may be able to be made with better accuracy than now, thanks to researchers at North Carolina State University, Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research. Together these researchers have developed a system that could be built into a regulation football, to track its position on the field.
The idea of tracking a football electronically is not new and attempts have been made before, but they relied on high frequency radio waves. While these waves would work well for tracking the ball, they are also absorbed by human bodies, which means that in a pile up, when the tracking could be most useful, it would also be the least trustworthy. To work around that problem, the researchers turned to low frequency radio waves, which are not absorbed by bodies, but present another problem. Such low frequency waves tend to be absorbed by the Earth and re-emitted, so the field itself would cause interference. By turning to complex image theory, a technique developed in the sixties, the researchers found that they could filter out the interference of the secondary waves, and accurately track the ball.
Just as important as the technology itself is that the researchers were able to make it light enough, to not make a football too heavy for use in an NFL game. Now they just need to work on fine-tuning the system to bring the precision to roughly half the length of the ball, which is approximately the margin of error for visually spotting the ball.
Source: North Carolina State University