Innovative Simulation Uses 3D Real-Time to Boost Passing Accuracy

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Talk about game-changing. Bringing its popular LiDAR technology into an entirely new field of play, Velodyne LiDAR has teamed with specialty solution provider MVP Interactive on a breakthrough virtual quarterback simulation.

Velodyne LiDAR is the leading developer, manufacturer and supplier of real-time LiDAR sensor technology used in a variety of commercial applications including autonomous vehicles, vehicle safety systems, 3D mobile mapping, 3D aerial mapping and security. Based in Philadelphia, MVP Interactive builds and implements engaging technical solutions to complex problems. "MVP Interactive’s goal is to be more than an activation," says Anthony DiPrizio, CTO, MVP Interactive. "Our goal is to be an experience. Through innovative technology and product design, MVP delivers exciting and shareable experiences."

As part of the nationwide Salute to Service tour (, insurance giant USAA–Official Military Appreciation Sponsor of the NFL–enlisted MVP to generate the Quarterback Challenge, which operates much like a golf simulator. From a distance of eight to ten feet, players view a large screen that displays scenes from a quarterback’s point of view. The goal is to throw as many footballs as possible, as accurately as possible, in the shortest period of time, according to the scene displayed on screen. Quarterback Challenge debuted during the ArmyNavy game last Dec. 12 in Philadelphia, which Navy won 21-17.

For Quarterback Challenge to work, the direction of the football, its trajectory and its velocity needed to be calculated very rapidly–not a trivial matter, given that the distance from the quarterback position to the screen was only several meters. MVP tried a variety of sensors before selecting Velodyne’s VLP-16 LiDAR Puck. Only Velodyne’s sensor provided the company with exactly the capabilities it was seeking.

MVP did its due diligence and then some, thoroughly evaluating the full range of potential solutions. Infrared sensors had issues with daylight, and found it was difficult to track the break in the IR beam to obtain accurate results. Infrared cameras experienced similar issues with daylight and were additionally plagued by excess noise in a less-than-controlled environment. 3D cameras, including Kinect, did work, but didn’t offer an acceptable number of frames per second. And the technology was unable to find as many points of an object entering 3D space as 3D LiDAR did.

Safety light curtains posed other challenges; the physical setup was extremely difficult, and determining where along the beam the ball broke became an issue, as did the spacing between beams (deemed too large in some instances). Footballs were detected using ultrasonic technology, but accuracy suffered. As with 3D cameras, the frames-persecond rate with laser technology was simply too slow, and lasers achieved only a 50/50 detection of objects.

"The Velodyne VLP-16 was by far the most cost-effective sensor we considered, and combined with our detection algorithm, proved to overcome a number of large technical hurdles," says DiPrizio. "While the application might seem straightforward to build, it wasn’t. What the VLP-16 sensor and our software were able to achieve represents a tremendous technical feat. We plan to use the Velodyne sensor in several projects going forward, given the success of the Quarterback Challenge."

The technical issues involved in creating Quarterback Challenge were substantial. Accuracy, lighting conditions, non-controlled environments, speed of objects being thrown, number of points of detection needed, etc.–all became non-issues for the Velodyne sensor. Tellingly, the same company that provides next-generation LiDAR sensors for Ford’s self-driving cars now offers technology that’s fast and accurate enough to capture a football’s trajectory in fractions of a second, in real-time 3D, for MVP’s Quarterback Challenge. Beyond this football-themed solution, the simulator bodes well for an entire range of applications that can benefit from real-time multi-channel LiDAR technology.

David Oroshnik is Director of Technical Solutions for Velodyne LiDAR, Morgan Hill, Calif.

A 1.479Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE