Augmented reality thesis a possible reality for RGIII

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III smiles as he greets fans after an NFL preseason football game against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, in Landover, Md. The Redskins won 30-17. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By Jessica Chia and Travis Taylor

Robert Griffin III is preparing to face the New Orleans Saints in the Redskins’ season opener Sunday, but the key to upgrading his training efforts may be back at Baylor.

“He practices a lot and can’t have the whole defense out there every time,” said Dr. Michael Korpi, professor of film and digital media. “His dream was that he could go into the practice facilities, even without a receiver, and practice against a defense and be able to tell if the pass was completed or not.”

Griffin spoke with Korpi and professor of film and digital media Dr. Corey Carbonara, professor of film about the possibility of creating a training application displayed on the Mylar face shield on his helmet that would allow him to practice his quarterback skills in a game-like setting.

If Griffin decides to take on a thesis project to complete his master of arts degree in communication studies, it is likely he will produce and direct a film that will explore the potential of creating such technology.

Griffin, who completed his bachelor’s degree in political science in just three years, has already completed 24 credit hours of coursework toward a master of arts degree in communication studies, with a focus in corporate communications.

To earn his degree, Griffin must complete 36 more hours, the equivalent of four courses, or complete a thesis project.

Griffin, who could not be reached for comment, has not indicated which route he will ultimately pursue.

Korpi and Carbonara have spoken with Griffin about the potential project.

“Every time we talk to him he says he wants to do it, but the decision is his as to whether he’s going to go ahead and do it,” Carbonara said. “He likes the idea, he’s personally invested in it, he’s done the research background to justify him doing this.”

Griffin’s commitment to the Redskins prevents him from working on his thesis this fall.

“Right now he’s leaning toward finishing his thesis in film – a video as a thesis. If he goes ahead with this project it would probably be in the spring,” Korpi said.

Whatever his decision, he remains committed to academics despite his athletic success.

“He’s an amazing student,” Korpi said. “I did ask him, ‘Why, why did you want to finish?’ and he said, ‘Because I started.’ ’You can’t play football forever,’ is what he says.”

As a graduate student in Korpi Lariatand Carbonara’s team-taught class on convergent digital technologies, Griffin showed special interest in augmented reality and its possible applications in the sports world.

Augmented reality is a term for information, usually visual, added to the real world.

Portable technology devices like screens and glasses allow for interactive, real-time, location-based information to overlay surroundings.

Carbonara demonstrated a current augmented reality application on his smart phone featuring a virtual soccer ball that responds to kicking movements when held above one’s feet.

However, it will take multiple advances in technology to realize this artificial training program for athletes.

“We’re not there yet,” Korpi said. “He’s moving his head, his helmet moves around a little bit on his head. When his eye moves left or right, his distance from the screen changes. The players have to be exactly where they need to be, and it has to happen in real time, without any noticeable delay.”

The motions of the eye, the ball, the arm, the timing of the release of the ball and the positions of the quarterback and each of the players in relation to the field and the horizon would need to be tracked and displayed accurately while the screen itself is moving.

“We’ve got quarterback views all the time in games like Madden. But it has to be precise to be useful for him, otherwise it’s just a game,” Carbonara said.