Augmented player assistance

Pool is a popular game, enjoyed by persons of all ages and skill levels. While the game may seem simple at first glance, inexperienced players tend to actually find it difficult to master. The main challenge would be in finding the right balance between the three main requirements for the game, namely: physical skill, precise execution of the shots, including power and angle, and strategic thought as to where the cue ball would be positioned for the next shot. 

The difficulty of learning how to aim, handle the cue ball and calculate angles and trajectory might cause beginners to feel discouraged about developing the required skill, and possibly lead to their giving up on the game completely. This situation motivated the project, which aims to help players of all skill levels by developing guiding lines to assist inexperienced players. These lines would be displayed on the pool table, by using a projector to indicate the ideal trajectories of the cue ball and the target ball.

The proposed system consists of an overhead camera that would capture the entire pool table and the movements of the balls and the cue, and an overhead projector that would display the lines according to the cue position. OpenCV was used to detect the boundaries of the table and the pockets, to set the play area. The ball positions could also be detected and, in the absence of any movement on the play area, the software would seek the cue stick to calculate the trajectories for the guiding lines. Once the trajectories and angle would have been calculated, the lines would then be displayed on the table using the overhead projector to provide the player with visual feedback, in order to adjust their position to the correct angle and trajectory required to make a successful shot.

The project was evaluated by a group of beginners to the game. The results indicate that the proposed system improved their decision-making in choosing the angle and trajectory of the shot, while also improving their cue-ball placement for the next shot. Therefore, it could be concluded that the system could improve the potting percentage of the players. However, this would highly depend on the cue being struck well and the table surface being free from imperfections.

Figure 1. Guiding lines from cue ball and target ball

Student: Andrew Cassar
Supervisor: Prof. Matthew Montebello