Learning to swim with the pool sharks


Pocket billiards, or pool, is a treacherous game. Beginners—mere fish, guppies and algae—flop like flounders on the felt, morsels for the local shark.

But three senior engineering students hope to rescue drowning players from the green depths with their senior design project, “Precision Pool-Aid,” a projection device that shows players the likely trajectory of their shots — allowing them to swap their water-wings for shark fins.

The “Precision Pool-Aid” uses a digital camera that captures the relative position of the balls and the cue stick and sends the coordinates to a computer that calculates the trajectory of the intended shot. Then, and here’s the kicker, the trajectory is projected onto the table as an illuminated arrow that adjusts itself as the player repositions the cue stick.

The University of Akron

Precision Pool Aid, designed by engineering students, projects the trajectory of shots onto the table's surface.

The project — a massive feat of computer programming, in which the trigonometry, team member Matthew Watzman says, “was the easy part” — is what Watzman calls an “augmented reality table,” a real pool table augmented by virtual elements.

He also calls it an “accelerated learning tool,” designed to assist those chalking their cue sticks — sharpening their teeth, so to speak — for the first time.

“You can play for two to three years without feeling like you’re getting better,” he said. The device “trains your eye to recognize shots and gives you a better idea of the physics behind it.”  

The team’s adviser, Gregory Lewis, electrical and computer engineering technical services director, adds that the invention can “also aid more experienced players in mastering difficult bank and combo shots.”

The inventors, Watzman, Ali Yousef and Muzammil Mohammad, all of whom have secured jobs in engineering, plan to patent, market and commercialize their product.

Team members

From left: Matthew Watzman, Ali Yousef and Muzammil Mohammad.

Yousef, who says most pool halls would want the invention, foresees the game becoming a “virtual reality experience.”

Indeed, the team plans on adding sound and visual effects — such as fireworks that are projected when a ball is pocketed — to their customized table, which is already decked with LED lights around the perimeter that flash when balls are sunk. 

The important point, though, is that more billiard balls, and fewer flattened fish, will be sunk on that treacherous green cloth.


icon Story by Nick Nussen, student writer

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or henryd@uakron.edu.