New Technology For Football

Sometimes science and technology just blows my mind. This past Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens on a controversial call in which is was hard to tell whether the football broke the plane of the goal line when caught by a receiver who then fell back into the field of play. A professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh thinks they may have a way to resolve these kinds of calls.

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.

In the case of the Roethlisberger-Ward hookup on Sunday, 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.


"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."

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.

I can easily see this coming to fruition in my lifetime. Just astounding. (Hat tip: PFT)