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Re-racking Table

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In today’s society, we seem to automate everything. Why not automate the re-racking of pool tables too?

All the balls end up in the table, and are usually dispensed into the cavernous hole at the foot of the table. It shouldn't take too much engineering to create a mechanism for sorting the differing balls and racking them into the triangle, then to be placed onto the table.
Sure it doesn't seem like much of a chore, but those extra 20 seconds may soon add up.

As for sorting the balls, there are a number of options. From RFID chips, to optical recognition techniques. But the less intervention with the balls, I think, the better. Even small mass differences over the balance of a ball can have dramatic consequences on a shot.
silverstormer, Feb 28 2005

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       Hm, how could this happen...   

       *The bowling alley pinsetter sort of approach wherein racks are preloaded above the table and placed on demand? (The pocketed balls go back to a central, in-house processing facility for sorting and reloading in to the racks while the games are being played.)
  

       *A compromise solution that just sorts the balls in to a rack held in a drawer under the table? Somehow the sorted, filled rack could be removed as a unit and placed on the table as suggested in the idea. An array of suction cups connected to a small vacuum tank will hold the balls in place. Once placed on the table, a small release valve button is pressed, thus releasing the balls.   

       *A ball return mechanism that identifies, sorts and ejects the balls back on to the table with enough control to place the balls roughly in the desired formation (rack is then manually used to prepare for the break)?   

       *Balls eject from one or more pockets, ball-bots climb up on to the table from one or more pockets and an overhead camera feeds a machine vision system which catalogs each ball location and uses lasers , each uniquely modulated to be recognized by one of three ball-bots, to guide the bots around the table where they push each ball in to the proper location, then the bots link their retractable bot-arms together to form a triangle surrounding the ball grouping then retract their arms to tighten the grouping as appropriate for a break then scuttle back down their designated bot-pockets where they spend their free time studying english grammar, specifically how to avoid run-on sentences?   

       *The entire rack position of the table retracts below the surface, the properly ordered balls are pushed on to it from under the table then elevated back up in to position?   

       *A retractable cylinder in each of the spots on the table that correspond to a racked ball location is retracted to create a temporary divot in the table top. The balls are ejected back on to the table one or more at a time. The gimballed table is then robotically manipulated to tip and turn to guide the ball in to it's designated location. In order for this to work at all, the face of a clown would have to be projected on to the table, one eye aligning with currently targeted divot.   

       *What re-racking? Using a most miraculous breakthrough in 3D prototyping and solid modeling, a heretofore unknown epoxy is forced up through microscopic pores in the table, the constituent parts being mixed while being forced through the pores, curing aided by exposure to nitrogen and the heat of the extrusion process, colorants injected at the proper time, an entirely new crop of balls is grown on the table before your very eyes.
half, Feb 28 2005
  

       This could certainly be a cool concept if it could be made to work, but I'm not quite sure how it could be very well accomplished.   

       I would expect that best expediency (if not optimal coolness) would be to have a triangle with a slide-on bottom. This would allow an assembled rack of balls to be picked up as a unit and placed onto the table. The bottom could then be slid out and the rack returned to its normal location before play (so the balls could be assembled there as they were used).   

       Because standard 8-ball rules allow most of the balls to be placed arbitrarily, it would be necessary only to identify the 8-ball and to distinguish stripes from solids. Such determinations can be easily made optically.
supercat, Mar 01 2005
  

       Bluetooth the pool balls. That way, you won't lose them, either. Bad frog!
DesertFox, Mar 01 2005
  

       nice one!
po, Mar 01 2005
  

       Breed collies the size of hamsters to herd pool balls.
robinism, Mar 01 2005
  

       [half] - That is a brilliant array of ideas.   

       [robinism] - Even better!
wagster, Mar 01 2005
  

       Eight ball rules:   

       Eight ball in the middle of third row from the top.   

       Left and right bottom ball must be different.   

       +for the ball-bots.
zeno, Mar 01 2005
  

       Motorise the balls, using Roaming Goldfish Bowl technology. Then put them all on the table and watch them self-organise.
hippo, Mar 01 2005
  

       Hmmmm....Flocking Roaming Goldfish Bowl Pool Ball technology. Remember to turn the function off when the game is in progress
gnomethang, Mar 01 2005
  

       -the poolball moves!-
zeno, Mar 01 2005
  

       [longshot] the laser pool tip has been invented already. As far as laser reflectivity for rails, it wouldn't help very much. Topspin on the ball (including natural forward roll) has a dramatic impact on the angle of rebound off the rubber; similarly, draw (backspin) and English can immensely change the angle. All factors included you can alter the angle by well over 60 degrees from what one would expect it's path to be without changing the initial trajectory.
contracts, Mar 01 2005
  

       As for the idea at hand... it would be very easy to make such a machine, though at this point probably cost prohibitive   

       I think the greatest unseen benefit to this would be that if the auto racker racked the balls in the same place all the time the constant repetition would create precise divits in the table felt and possibly a perfect rack everytime   

       and then of course in competitive games there would be an identical rack for each player which would be quite fair
shad, Mar 02 2005
  

       //Don't the solids and stripes have to be placed alternately in the rack, so as to produce a fair chance of spread?//   

       The rules allow any arrangement of balls provided that (1) the 8-ball is in the proper spot, and (2) the corners away from the shooters contain one stripe and one solid (either configuration).
supercat, Mar 02 2005
  

       The three ball has to be in front.
I can't break worth a crap for some reason if that three ball's not in front.
  

       Although this seems pretty cool to begin with, I think I'd orefer the manual way... It feels so much better when i win a rack to tell my opponent to "rack 'em up".   

       [supercat]: Depending on what version of pool you are playing, the ball placing does matter. In straight pool the balls positions at the break aren't relevant, in 9-ball, the 1 and the 9 are the only balls that have to be placed in a certain position and in British 8-ball pool has a specific pattern of red/yellow with the black in the centre.
Jinbish, Mar 02 2005
  

       gnomethang wrote "Flocking Roaming Goldfish Bowl Pool Ball technology. Remember to turn the function off when the game is in progress" Why? Currently the game is quite dull. The balls just sit there. Let them roll around a bit, juices up the game. You don't need a second player to mess up the situation anymore either. And when you play with two (or more) you don't have to wait your turn. Just everyone gather around the table and score as much as you can.
rrr, Mar 05 2005
  

       I believe a combination of RFID tags and servo-mechanical X and Y axis arm electromagnets under the table would suffice. The balls could be magnetic, or if that alters their properties too much a table-surface 'shuttle' could be used (its a teflon coated object with a Iron bottom, that simply holds the ball's while the magnet arms are positioning them.) RFID tags should be readable thru the table. The shuttle would then have to have a extra little side compartment after the table has been setup.   

       This setup could also allow a special 'magnetic' ball to be used to... cheat horribly or to play against a computer player. Or just have a 'possesed' ball randomly move around and knock other balls, to make the game more 'interesting'.
Melchior, Mar 07 2005
  

       There sems to be plenty of these babies around in Beverly Hills, but what's billiards got to do with it?
ConsulFlaminicus, Mar 07 2005
  

       If solid and striped balls contained different charges, then roll them down the centre of the table (underneath the playing surface) and through an electrical field, causing stripes to go left, solids to go right, and the uncharged black to go straight down the middle.
Couple this with a glass table top, for a very elegant sorting method.
MikeOliver, Mar 07 2005
  

       [Melchior], interesting name. I've seen before in another time & place. Do you skydive?
Zimmy, Mar 07 2005
  

       [Jinbish], in straightpool the left lower corner (as seen from the point of racking) must be the orange five, the right lower corner must be the yellow one.   

       This is done to ensure there is not a stripe on the corner, which might make it easier to target, because all you want to do is gently play it about 1/8 ball.   

       And in british eight ball with the red and yellow balls, there must be two either red or yellow balls at the front, two either red or yellow balls at the lower right corner (not the same colour as at the front) with the rest distributed evenly.
zeno, Mar 22 2005
  
      
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