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Augmented Reality Billiards 132

Posted by timothy
from the justify-this-in-the-budget dept.
scubacuda writes: "Wired.com reports that Columbia's CS Department has designed a new gadget designed to "take the brainwork out of billiards" and help the average player eventually take on professional pool sharks. The Stochasticks consists of a 5-by-10-inch laptop carried in a backpack, a half-centimeter-by-1-inch long lipstick camera and a headset. Pool experts, such as Mike Spinkle, president of United States Poolplayer Association, say that this device makes it easier to visualize the angles."
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Augmented Reality Billiards

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  • Hmm .. (Score:2, Funny)

    by grokBoy (582119)
    do you think they'll notice in competitions?
    • I highly doubt they will be used in any competitions. No aids excluding the bridge and chaulk are allowed. No books, no notes, and quite certainly no computer overlaid imagery.
      • Sorry, I was trying to be sarcastic. At least this way you should get a +1 informative for your reply :-)
      • you can't even fucking spell 'chalk' but you can use a computer...what the hell is this world coming to?

        -Nano.
  • I've been working on a similar project, but for a different application. Our laboratory has concentrated on the design of the user interface and the software infrastructure. After experimenting with indoor AR systems in the early 1990s, we decided to build our first outdoor system in 1996 to find out how it might help a tourist exploring an unfamiliar environment. We called our initial prototype the Touring Machine (with apologies to Alan M. Turing, whose abstract Turing machine defines what computers are capable of computing). Because we wanted to minimize the constraints imposed by current technology, we combined the best components we could find to create a test bed whose capabilities are as close as we can make them to the more powerful machines we expect in the future. We avoided (as much as possible) practical concerns such as cost, size, weight and power consumption, confident that those problems will be overcome by hardware designers in the coming years. Trading off physical comfort for performance and ease of software development, we have built several generations of prototypes using external-frame backpacks. In general, we refer to these as mobile AR systems (or MARS, for short).

    Our current system uses a Velcro-covered board and straps to hold many of the components: the laptop computer (with its 3-D graphics chip set and IEEE 802.11b wireless network card), trackers (a real-time kinematic GPS receiver, a GPS corrections receiver and the interface box for the hybrid orientation tracker), power (batteries and a regulated power supply), and interface boxes for the head-worn display and interaction devices. The total weight is about 11 kilograms (25 pounds). Antennas for the GPS receiver and the GPS corrections receiver are mounted at the top of the backpack frame, and the user wears the head-worn see-through display and its attached orientation tracker sensor. Our MARS prototypes allow users to interact with the display--to scroll, say, through a menu of choices superimposed on the user's view--by manipulating a wireless trackball or touch pad.

    From the very beginning, our system has also included a handheld display (with stylus input) to complement the head-worn see-through display. This display is specially fitted so as not to interfere with the beards sported by many linux hippies. This hybrid user interface offers the benefits of both kinds of interaction: the user can see 3-D graphics on the see-through display and, at the same time, access additional information on the handheld display.
  • Quantum Leap (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitalamish (449285) on Saturday June 15, 2002 @04:10PM (#3708678)
    It says in the story that the developer got the idea from an 'old sci fi flick'. Actually it was an episode of Quantum Leap.

    Yes it looks like it will help determine the angles, but not english or speed. A professional player will whoop you every time if you don't have ball control. However, taking the guesswork out of the angles would definitely help someone learn faster.

    --
    No electrons were harmed in the typing of this post.
    • I knew I'd seen what he was talking about, and I knew it wasn't an 'old sci-fi flick'... okay 2nd part of the equation...what episode was it? (ie, the premise and need for the holgram overlay?)...I don't know..I'm asking :)
      • I just watched this a couple of days ago... "Pool House Blues" or someit?
      • I believe he was an old black guy and couldn't get a loan, and his daughter was about to lose her building. So he took up a game against someone who always wanted to beat him. This other guy was a real pro, so Sam needed real help. Between Ziggy producing the lighted angles, and him being told how much force to use he was able to win.

    • Damn, I was just going to mention this. Oh well. Look, I got the quote all ready and everything:

      "Tony Jebara, mastermind behind the Stochasticks, is an assistant professor at Columbia University's Department of Computer Science who got the idea from watching an old science fiction flick.

      'I don't remember the name; I saw it ages ago,' he said. 'It had a guy playing billiards and the angle of the shots were overlaid on the table and I thought, I can build that.' "


      I couldn't find a picture of the effect on Quantum Leap, but I found this picture [finifter.com] from the episodes... Pool Hall Blues, second season.

      Bastard.
      • Re:Quantum Leap (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Try this link [angelfire.com] for a picture of the inspirational system used in the Quantum Leap episode.
    • I remembered that as soon as they mentioned AR pool actually. As a matter of fact, I just sent Mr. Jabara an email in regard to this, hehe.
    • I think I saw the same thing on an episode of Red Dwarf with Lister playing pool with the planets.

      - Serge Wroclawski
    • Actually, there was a pilot TV movie I recall, basically about an android that goes on the lam to learn more about people. At one point, he is in a poolhall, and some guys try to "shark" the "rube". He clues in that it's geometry and physics. He looks at the table, a bunch of equations get overlaid on his cheesy pixilated view, with a path for everything to go down. "I should make all the balls go into the holes?" "Just solids or stripes" says one of the sharks. "Ah. I will make that adjustment," says the robot, followed by another view with altered trajectory.

      Can't remember the name of it, though. "21st Century Android" or something. Like I said, it was a pilot, didn't go anywhere.
      • I could have sworn that the name of it was "Blue Collar Man," or something like that. IMDb doesn't seem to have heard of it. The pool hall scene was the only memorable one.

        (As balls fly around the table and into pockets)
        Android: Am I to sink the black ball as well?
        Stunned Pool Shark: Uh, yeah.
        (Eight ball - the last on table - is pocketed)
        Android: Good.
      • Starman, it was a movie with Jeff Bridges. It also turned to a TV show, where the alien comes back 15-20 years later to take care of his son.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 15, 2002 @04:15PM (#3708701)
    Of course when you see an angle you only see a projection of it. For each infinitesimal angle dtheta, you have to compensate perspective by dividing by the triple-product of the vector from the angle to your eye, the vector normal to the plane spanned by the angle, and the vector in the direction of dtheta (all normalized). It you integrate this over the whole visible angle, you can easily evaluate the real angle in your head.
    • It is true, that if you integrate this over the whole visible angle, you can easily evaluate the real angle in your head. However, we do not accept, nowadays, as it happened in the past, that our perceptive world is just the plain result of an encounter between a "naive" brain and the physical properties of a stimulus. Actually, perceptions differ, in quality, from those physical characteristics, because the brain extracts an information from the stimulus and interprets it, according to previous similar experiences.

      We experiment electromagnetic waves, not as waves, but as images and colours. We experiment vibrating objects, not as vibrations, but as sounds. We experiment the beards of linux hippies, as they blow softly in the wind. We experiment chemical compounds dissolved in air or water, not as chemicals, but as specific smells and tastes. Colours, sounds, smells and tastes are products of our minds, built from sensory experiences.

      They do not exist, as such, outside our brain. Actually, the universe is colourless, inodorous, insipid and silent. Therefore, we can now answer one of the questions of traditional philosophy : Does a sound exist when a tree falls in a forest, if nobody is present to hear it ? No, the fall of the tree only creates vibrations. The sound occurs if vibrations are perceived by a living being.

      Information from the environment or from the body itself, is picked up by the sensory systems and utilized by the brain for perception, regulating corporeal movements and maintaining arousal. A sensory system starts to work when a stimulus, usually from the outside world, is detected by a sensitive neuron, the first sensorial receptor. This receptor converts the physical expression of the stimulus (light, sound, heat, pressure, taste, smell) into action potentials , which transforms it into electric signs.

      From there, the signs are conducted to a nearby area of primary processing, where the initial characteristics of the information are elaborated, according to the nature of the original stimulus : colour, shape, distance, shade, etc. Then, the already modified information is transmitted to zones of secondary processing in the thalamus (if originated by olfactory stimuli, it is processed in the olfactory bulbs and then directly conducted to the medial area of the temporal lobe).

      In the thalamic zones, older data, originated from both the cortex and the limbic system and containing similar experiences, link to the new information, in order to form a message, which is carried to its specific cortical centre. There, the meaning and importance of the new detected stimulus are determined by a conscious process of identification called perception.

      Although two human beings share the same genetic and biological architecture and function, perhaps what I perceive as a dintinct color and smell is not exatly equal to the the color and smell you perceive. For example, you may like a certain Thinkgeek T-shirt with a pseudo-pithy statement about emacs on it. I may think it's lame, and that it clashes with your beard. We give the same name to this perception but we cannot know how they relate to the reality of the outside world. Perhaps we never will.
  • Now they need something to help you physically like the shot up. To use an easier example with drawingI can picture things in my head, but getting them to the paper, the pen has a mind of its own.
    • I was always told the way to master pool etc was to picture another cue ball in line with the target, so that it was essentially a straight pot if you struck that imaginary ball directly with your cue.

      Then, hit the real cue ball into the imaginary one.

  • by Photar (5491) <<photar> <at> <photar.net>> on Saturday June 15, 2002 @04:16PM (#3708709) Homepage
    Maybe this will help me be able to keep from missing the cue ball so often.
  • awkwardness (Score:1, Funny)

    by rob-fu (564277)
    Jebara did admit that there are times when the Stochastick could be awkward. "If you're in a Harley Davidson bar where the people may not approve, you may want to be very discreet about wearing a computer aid."

    Well no shit. But then again I don't see many geeks going to these "Harley Davidson bars" in the first place.

    Also, your chances of meeting girls diminishes even further with one of these things. Leave the Stochastick at home!
  • by ReadParse (38517) <john@@@funnycow...com> on Saturday June 15, 2002 @04:18PM (#3708721) Homepage
    The more you know about pool, the more you realize how much more there is to the game than the angles, which are truly the easy part. It doesn't take long to develop your own way to see the angles and sink the balls, but of course you'll still miss because you get the mechanics wrong in your arm, or you miscue because you forgot to chalk, or any number of reasons.

    Then there's cueball action... "english" on the ball, top, draw, etc -- not only knowing how to apply various types of english, but knowing when and why. Of course, many times the "best" shot on the table, meaning the easiest shot, I guess, is not the shot you need to make and, depending on the game, it's also a foul. The most common professional game of 9 Ball, for example, requires the player to shoot the balls in numerical order, which means that, after the 3 ball goes, it doesn't matter how good the shot is on the 7 ball, because you have to shoot the 4 ball, no matter WHERE it is. You at least have to touch it, which in that game sometimes requires a fantastic shot.

    So, it's no surprise that we have technology that can assist us with the most elementary aspect of the game. And it just proves that there's no substitute for learning the game through experience... not yet, anyway :)

    RP
    • but it doesnt help much if you are like me and cant even hit the ball straight.
    • Agreed, but you also left out another important aspect: speed.

      As a person who played more 3-cushion billiards thatn 8- or 9-ball in college, speed is equally important in billiards.

      Anyone can hit the cue ball hard and sink another ball, just short of popping the cue ball off the table, but what fun is that?

      The real skill is in determining how much speed you'll need to complement your choice of direction and english.

      Additionally, the cue will hit the cue ball with a vector such that it will impart directional and rotational inertia to the cue ball. The impact upon other balls may not be 100% elastic and the elasticity of any collision on the billiards table is difficult to estimate. Try playing on tables of different sizes with varying cloths and talc driven into the felts. This is called "feel" and it is different for every table.

      Only long hours and patience will ever produce a skilled billiards player.
      • Slightly Off-topic, but if you like 3-cushion, you should check out the website of the Carom Cafe [caromcafe.com]. The site is all flash, but it is an amazing site showing recreations of masters shots and runs in 3 cushion.

    • You forgot beer. There is a definite "sweet spot" for beer consumption when playing pub pool (9 ball), at least for your average hack. After "a beer" (say, 375ml of 4.7% strength) there is a distinct improvement in accuracy as the muscle relaxant effect kicks in, and/or you stop thinking in terms of photons and mirrors (useless given the distinct lean of some pub tables.) I drink Guiness, so a bit of Irish luck isn't out of the question, either. ;-) However, somewhere during the second pint things definitely go downhill...
    • Pool (and eight ball in particular) is a game designed for betting. the mechanics of the angles and the "english" (god, you americans kill me) are but an iota of the complexities of the process the is provided within the original games of billiards and particulalry snooker.

      The irony of the statement of "it's just physics" to any given shot is that it is really simple to determine the correct shot (and the proof of this is in watching top snooker commentate on how they can see "no path for the cue ball back into baulk" when just looking at a table full of nigh on twenty balls) and yet the execution of a given shot is pretty tricky.

      I have always wondered if you could build a robot* that could execute the most amazing snooker shots since it could provide exact precision on which of the nine cue target ositions and exact speed and follow through. I thinkn would be a machine that would be almost unbeatable (particulalry since it should be able to execute shots with force that no human could muster.

      Anyway, the point is that the general level of excellence in snooker today (at the professional level) suggests that a tool such as this is really only the first step in creatingh the framework for training a player to "know" the techniques of excellent play and alone it is pretty useless.

      *well at least some kind of rig that could be linked to a computer that had a concept of the current table configuration
  • by nakaduct (43954) on Saturday June 15, 2002 @04:19PM (#3708724)
    Connor: The 500 series had cameras on their heads. We spotted them easy. Also they were tethered to a wall, and deadly only at pool.
  • It seems to me that lining up your shots is the easiest part of the game. Making those shots is where the skill is.
  • yeah, it seems like a neat idea, but there's no replacement for skill, and experience. I just have trouble understanding why someone would want this? for the amount of trouble, you can spend the time and money working on your shot at a pool bar??
  • How's the computer supposed to know that the rails on my table don't "reflect" the ball back at the right angle. Hit at 15 degrees, bounce back at 45...
  • I can't wait for the "augmented reality pick-up-chicks-in-a-bay" educational series...
  • by forged (206127) <soltesz@@@gmail...com> on Saturday June 15, 2002 @04:26PM (#3708746) Homepage Journal
    To comment on the following extract from the article:

    • In fact, Jebara said, within the next five to 10 years the system will be better than the world's best player. Jebara is confident that it will be able to judge the table-top situation more accurately and precisely than the human mind.

    There are 2 different statements here:

    a) that "the system" (I'm assuming an average player operating the system here) will be able to beat a pro.
    This is rubbish. A crappy player that doesn't know how to handle a billiard stick properly, and still won't be able to shoot properly even with the system. Even if the computer maths are elaborate, too many variables are left to the player skills: spin control, precise control of the force applied to the cue ball, etc.
    At best, an average player using the system will get the general direction where to point at and why, but that's about it.

    b) It is true that the computer may be able to model accurately the problem, but it doesn't make it a better player than a human for all the reasons in a) and others.

    Computer chess is a prime example that machine does not always beat man, and here the difference is even more striking because the system ultimately rely on the skills of whoever is operating the stick. You just can't approximate this margin of error.

    • Computer chess is also a much different system. Chess is a game where 99% of what is done CAN be simulated by current technology. The computer can have a library of common openings and traps and whatnot. It can evaluate every possible move. With billiards, the computer can't tell me how hard to strike the cue ball, what english I need, and so on. Determining angles can *help*, but it's no substitute for a professional player who knows which shot to take, even if it's not the easiest shot available.
      • With billiards, the computer can't tell me how hard to strike the cue ball, what english I need, and so on.

        Actually, the computer probably could tell you all of that (though it may take a while and require more input than a simple visual image of the table), but the problem is, it's useless information, because you can't really translate what the computer tells you into a physical action. The computer might be able to tell you what point on the sphere of the cue ball your cue needs to strike and how fast your cue should be moving at the time of impact, but the chances of you reproducing what the computer tells you are pretty much nil. There's a lot more to pool than math...you also need the physical skills.

        DennyK
    • by JMZero (449047)
      You're of course correct in that the computer cannot make up for a player who can't follow its directions.

      However, comparing that to computers playing chess seems a little silly. Computers don't lose at chess because somehow they meant to move the queen but instead moved the rook. In any case, computers will be destroying humans at chess in 10 years.

      I can certainly imagine a computer that's better at "the mental part" of pool than any human - and that's what the article is talking about (and this is apparent from the quote)...

      Jebara is confident that it will be able to judge the table-top situation more accurately and precisely than the human mind. .

      .
  • This device might be helpful for three-rail billiards or even nine-ball, games where long rail shots are required, but in a game like eight-ball where a player has to control the cue ball in and around a tight ball pattern, it's draw, follow, and English that win the game, not center-ball bank shots. Yeah, making a great three-rail bank shot around the four to drop the three ball in a game of nine-ball is really cool; not putting yourself in the position where you have to make that shot in the first place is even better.

    Anyway, when it comes to beating a real pool shark, social skills have more to do with winning than technical skills.

  • If you want to cheat, use these laser cues [laser-pool-cues.com]. It works so much better. :-)
  • I have agree with those who claim there is more to pool than the angles.

    It is hard to image a robot even being able to play the game. Although a robot could be consistently wrong. Not with the angles. But, with the other aspects of the using the stick (chalk, english, even play selection).
    • The awesome movie Silent Running had a robot like this, but it didn't even simulate playing well.
      • ...to play well you need to smoke a cigar, sport a pop belly and be at least partly bald. Not too many robots can cover that.

        I doubt a robot could ever catch a baseball either. Yet, kids and professionals master that with time. Assuming they have good eyesight and coordination.

        I think similar skills and qualifications need to be mastered for pool as well. I can see a robot striking a ball with consistency. But, determining just how it should be struck may be left up to those who master the game. They are not good just because they are smart. They know because they are experienced and have developed a feel for the game. You could take lessons from a pool shark and hardly be any better at all. And, most pool sharks may not be able to tell you precisely what they did to make a certain shot anyway.
  • But it runs Windows, and is constantly
    BSODing my headset, so my game really
    hasn't improved much. Really. You can
    play against me if you want, but I won't
    be much of a challenge.
  • What about a series? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stomv (80392)
    There are tremendous difficulties that lie ahead. They must map where the cue ball will lie after the shot.

    Then... the "real" math comes in: do you take the easy shot with a far more difficult second shot, or do you take a slightly more risky first shot, to be rewarded with a setup for a second and third object ball?

    The decision making tree grows large, and different parameters would be selected not just based on the ability of the player, but on his opponent and the current state of the game.

    There is much math ahead. This is a neat gizmo, but it trivializes the decision making and abilities pool sharks exhibit just down the street.
  • See, they missed the point. The hard part of pool isn't making the balls. It's the strategy. To be able to put yourself in a position to make the next ball and so on. To know when to play safe instead of trying to make the ball at it. It's like chess, anyone can learn to move the pieces, learning the strategy is the hard part.
  • But probably a whole lot healthier. I had the same (or better) augmentations freely available as early as 1974...it was called "WindowPane", and there were two stuck together...oops.

  • Amateur Physics for the Amateur Pool Player Third Edition [ohio-state.edu]

    ...and it'll all come out right.

    --Blair
  • misread the title as "Augmented Reality Balls," realized that i was just making a word association, then thought about how useful big, realistic balls would--

    but then i stopped thinking about it.
    so should you.
    now.
    8D
  • If Mr. Jebara thinks that "within the next five to 10 years the system will be better than the world's best player," he needs to review his high-school physics.

    It isn't just the angles at which the balls collide -- it's the how far off center the balls are when they collide, what kind of spin is on the cue ball when it begins the chain reaction, the mass of each of the balls, the felt table's coefficient of friction,.... To compensate for all of these variables will require many more (and varied) sensors than just a camera.

    That's the what makes pool different from chess -- in chess, the friction of the pieces against the board doesn't matter. In many respects, pool is the ultimate game of applied physics. But all of the variables combine to make the game as much art as it is science.

    Still, it is a pretty cool thing, and will be great for beginners to learn the basics.

    • by King_TJ (85913)
      I'm not really convinced this does any more for someone than a well-written Pool simulation game on the computer. (AKA. Virtual Pool) These types of games already make promises on the box like "Guaranteed to improve your Pool game, or your money back!"

      Everyone is quick to point out that the biggest flaw in PC-based Pool games is the fact that they don't simulate holding the cue and the skill required to shoot straight. So what? Same issue with this device. The skills they don't directly teach you have to be learned by practicing playing the real game.

      Learning the angles, though? A $19.95 copy of Real Pool for the Playstation 2 or Virtual Pool for the PC will do it just fine.
  • by geojaz (11691) on Saturday June 15, 2002 @04:58PM (#3708835) Homepage
    While many have searched for an application of "wearable" computers, this sort of specialized system seems like a rather reasonable way that they can be integrated into the lives of a normal person.
    Much more reasonable than the headset wearing ubergeek that is...
  • If you still have to do the math to figure out where the ball is going to go, you don't stand a chance. Even if you can do the math, there's so many other factors. The speed of the ball determines how far it will go. In addition, it also determines how much bounce you will get off of the rubber sides. A faster ball will rebound at a different angle than a slower one will. English matters. Topspin matters. Draw matters.
    I seriously doubt any "professional" needs to do the math anyways. He knows where the ball is going to go and where it will end up and he can do so just by looking at the table.

    The math is for beginners.

    -Restil
    • Figure in too the difference in table speeds between new and worn cloth (New 130, worn by 12 games 100...) Now take into account rail irregularities etc...

      Ain't the brain amazing...
  • I am by no means an authority on pool, but have played quite a few rounds, and would like to think of myself as serious competition for most recreational players.

    My take on this device:
    This will only help a bad player, and there are other thing which would be of more help. I can easily "see" the angles in my head. The hardest parts of the game for this type of player has to do with cue control, estimating how hard to hit (which no coputer can really help you with), and defensive strategy.

    1. Cue Control - If I have more than a couple feet in between the cue ball and the ball I am trying to hit, chances are I will be slightly off my mark, as will most other people I have seen play. A fraction of an inch (or cm for international folks) means the difference of the ball you hit going right or left of your intended path.

    2. How hard to hit. A computer cannot help you hit the cue with 20psi of pressure. (Or whatever a meaningful measurement is) A cmputer can help you with "soft/medium/hard" hit, but not the exact details of your execution of the shot.

    3. Defensive strategy - leaving the cue where it is least helpful to your opponent. This varies greatly by your skill at 1 and 2. I know about what my margin of error is on 1 and two, and can make a educated guess about where the cue will stop based on how I plan to do 1 and 2. In most cases I am luck if I can choose the 1/8th of the table I want the ball to stop in and do it. 1/4th of the table is more realistic. Also have to keep in my what other balls will be hit during the shots, their reactions, etc.

    All the stuff this device accomplishes are really things I can do fairly accuratly in my head, and I would think most other pool players would as well. That being the case, I am not really sure the intended market of this device, and how much more it would help them than a basic pool lesson and a check list of think about 1,2,3 when choosing your shot. When you play often enough, or when I do at least, I can make many computations in my head in a couple of seconds and trim down my possible shots to two or three which I analyze in more depth.

    -Pete
  • There's a similar product that doesn't require a laptop called SniperCue [cuesight.com]. I can't see these being used in real games, or especially tournaments. It might be a good learning tool to figure out how angles work, but it's not going to teach you english, and it's not going to teach you how hard to hit the ball.

    Every cue is different though, even if they are the same model. If one learns on a cue like this, they are going to have to get the feel of the non-laser/camera cue before being much good. Plus, at over $1000, you could get a nice Schon Limited for less. I'll stick with my Joss, the more I play with that cue, the better I get with it.
  • No matter how good you could play with this thing... You look so darn stupid, you might become the laughing stock of the location you're playing in fairly quickly.
  • by new_breed (569862)
    Who cares about angles...I want a device that stops the ball from flying off the table into someone else's face
  • As opposed to billiards, would feature a high voltage electric shock to the genitals to simulate the welching of a bet in a bad neighborhood (thx Carlin.
  • Ive always wondered how come there hasnt been a pool playing AI just like a chess one.

    As I know nothing about AI or robotics would it be hard to create one to predict the best shot to make?

  • With the aid of a lap top, any bum off the street will be able to perform brain surgery with the best of them?

    For the humour impaired: It's a joke.. Laugh!
  • with a laptop on his back. The bartender says: "Hey. Whats that thing?"

    The laptop says: "That? That's just a guy on my ass. Where's the pool table?"

    - Shecky Jhon
  • Sounds like the OGC guys and wall hack authors are going into higher level research now. I think you'd call this an "aim bot" right?

    I can't wait to have some guy yell, "Yuo be0tch your using a wall hack or an aimbot. NOBODY CAN SHUTE THAT GOOD" when I go down to Squirrels (a downtown learning center) to play some pool.
  • This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard!!!

    It's like the Sprite commercial. "You wanna play all-star basketball? Practice. You want a good friggen soda or whatever? Drink Sprite." I like that one because they're not trying to advertise that drinking Sprite will make you an all-star basketball player or whatever.

    So you wanna get good at shootin' pool? Go to a bar that's got pool tables, see, order a pint of Negra Modelo, walk up to the nearest chick who looks about 30 years old, and ask her to shoot pool with you. Go to the pool table, drop a bunch of quarters inside, take a huge gulp of Negra Modelo, and then start playing. Yeah, you're gonna lose, because all 30 year old chicks who hang out at bars kick ass at pool. But play about ten games or so, and when you finish your pint, get another one. As you get progressively more drunk, your accuracy will increase, and your embarassment at sucking so bad will decrease. Do this about two or three nights a week--ask the chick which nights she hangs out there, because all 30 year old chicks at bars hang out at that bar on certain days--and before you know it, you're a pro. No need to cheat.

    Oh well... does anybody ever listen to ME?! Not until it's too late. Ooooooooooooh well.

  • ...let's hear more about this "5-by-10 inch laptop"!
  • Hmmm... Is this going to make it any easier to hit the stupid ball in a straight line? Or to control the spin? Or to not jump the table? Some people, namely myself, are more than capable of visualizing the angles and recognizing what needs to happen, but then are unable to follow through because they can't hit the stupid ball right. I mean c'mon, the damn thing is just sitting there, not moving! Why can't I hit it? Is someone going to make a computer that can help people with that?
    • Exactly. I have a degree in math. Show me a pool table, and I can tell you the best shot to take, not just to pocket the ball, but to set yourself up for the next shot. I watch professionals on espn2, and I'm just as good as they are at that part of the game. Even someone without much mathematical aptitude could learn that stuff a lot faster than the part I'm bad at. I don't play very often, so I don't have nearly the required precision with the cue stick, and everyone who plays more than once a month can beat me easily. Anyone can learn to figure out what to do. But actually doing it is a lot harder. It takes a lot of practice, and some degree of inborn skill. You can't get that any faster with the computer than without it.
  • Jeez, people get pissed off enough at the use of aimbots and such in online games...

    All we need is l33t d00dz in real world sports. Eick.
  • One of my favorite cue sticks is a Predator cue. One of the manufacturer's claims to fame is the use of a robot during development and testing http://www.predatorcues.com/oldenglish/whybuy.htm to perform repeatable shots over and over.

    It would be interesting to combine the repeatability of an Iron Willie robotic arm, and the laptop for number crunching, with a feedback loop to allow for corrections (an iterative learning process). Now *that* might be able to shoot (basic and rudimentary) pool. However, without first learning the basics of forming a bridge, point of aim, stroke, etc... the use of a computer by a novice pool player will be of little to no help.

  • ... it's as hard to learn as the bloody language. (And no matter how much you know, you could probably do better)
  • They have shutdown many amature websites that dare to expose the public to a Lego Brick. Before Lego even had a website, around 1994 and 1995, others put volunteer websites about Legos (not selling anything or competiting with Legos). Lego Lawyers put them out of business. Maybe they will try with Slashdot also. I quote from Lego Fairplay [lego.com]:

    The LEGO Logo may not be used on an Unofficial Web Site The bright red LEGO logo has become one of the most recognized trademarks in the world. We have worked hard to make this logo a symbol of high quality creative products for children. The logo stands for the LEGO Group and we cannot risk allowing the distinctiveness of this symbol to be diluted. We must, therefore, insist that the LEGO logo NEVER be used on an unofficial web site.

    See also my previous warning about Lego Lawyers. http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=32953&cid=3574 059 [slashdot.org] Disclaimer: I don't agree with these heavy-handed guys.

  • For what it's worth, here [howstuffworks.com] is an interesting tutorial on billiards.

    It talks about slate (and non-slate) surfaces, the table cabinet, rales, cushions, felt, variations of play, and table specifications.

    Very informative!

  • The Stochasticks consists of a 5-by-10-inch laptop carried in a backpack, a half-centimeter-by-1-inch long lipstick camera and a headset.

    And NASA wonder why their Climate Observer landed a little hard?
  • You should try snooker. The table is much bigger, the balls are much smaller and you are more limited when it comes to choosing which ball to sink.

    Still, the only way to get good at any billiards game is to misspend your youth.
  • The software leaves out the most thought involved aspect of pool, the leave. Figuring out how to angle shots is something that you learn to intuit pretty quickly, especially if you're learning from someone with enough physical skill to put the ball where they visualize it. The part of the game that involves the most thought is deciding where you want your ball to end up once you've finished your shot. Ideally you want to set yourself up for making another shot. This often means shooting a more difficult, less obvious shot first. At the same time, you have to ask yourself, "If I don't make this shot, how can I make sure that I don't leave my opponent with an easy shot." Again, this often means taking a less obvious shot, or putting a little extra back spin on the ball so that it rolls back a few more inches. As with chess, the better you get, the more "moves" in advance you try to set yourself up for. You also start to realize that you need to understand your opponent's playing style so that you can accuratly guess at what shots they might play and try to leave them in a difficult position for those shots. Think of it as a chess board, but instead of the pieces being locked into a nice 8x8 grid, they have continuous positioning throughout the entire board. Now, it's probably possible to write a program that will take all of this into account and try to predict what shots will be good to play. I think it'll be years before any such program is more than halfway decent though, and it will certainly have to be more than just an angle visualizer.
  • Who cares if this device can make you better at pool?!? This point is that this man has created a way to superimpose simple instuctions on top of reality. This possibilties for such a technology are endless:

    Driving directions with arrows that appear directly on the road.


    Virtual name tags. A persons name could automatically appear over their head when you meet them.


    A working light saber!


    When you superimpose images on top of reality, you could do anyting!

  • I worked for a company called Miacomet [miacomet.com] which made the Real Feel PoolShark. it was the first PC controller that allowed you to play a game on your computer with a real cue. It was basically a modified mouse with a roller on top where you place the cue. It couldn't do English or top or bottom shots though. As a poolplayer I thought it was pretty cool, and it was definitely fun to play around with. These types of devices, however, will not make you a better pool player. Visualizing the angles is something that does come with practice, and once you put the headset away, are you still going to know the angles in your head? They change with every shot of the ball. Miacomet basically went bankrupt and laid us all off, I don't know about the commerical prospects of this application.

"When it comes to humility, I'm the greatest." -- Bullwinkle Moose

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