Design

A NASA Engineer Invented A Brilliant Moving Dart Board That Makes Every Toss A Bull’s-Eye

by Penn Collins

March 22, 2017

If your enthusiasm or love for darts exceeds your actual talent, you’ll probably want to keep an eye on engineer Mark Rober. The former NASA engineer has created a dart board that puts the responsibility of precise movement on the board itself, rather than on the person throwing the darts. 

This motion-tracking dartboard uses six cameras to follow the flight of darts (customized with reflectors for visibility). The board doesn’t react to the dart’s movement instantly—rather it uses the data collected mid flight to make an educated guess as to where the dart’s trajectory will have it end up. Then, using six motors, the board moves into place a first time. That whole process of observation, analysis, and initial movement takes about 200 milliseconds.

As he explains in the video below, that initial movement is based on a familiar algebra formula: 

YouTube

But as we all know, we don’t throw things completely linearly. Throws tend to arc, spin, and shimmy based on everything from our wrist action to the release point to the breeze from the air conditioner above the dart board. 

So, using “updated” data on the dart’s flight, the board might make up to a hundred subsequent smaller adjustments to assure your dart arrives in the center of the board. It’s, uh, no small feat: 

YouTube

See the wildly impressive device in action in this YouTube video, in which the surprisingly casual and goofy engineer not only walks you through the device, but also reveals the effort and discipline that went into its inception.

For now, this is just a three-year labor of love for Mark Rober; there’s no plan to bring it to market. But if this insane feat of engineering ever showed up at a bar, I think the real challenge would be in trying to make a toss that DIDN’T end up as a bull’s-eye, because I don’t think it’s going to be easy to take down this machine. 

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A NASA Engineer Invented A Brilliant Moving Dart Board That Makes Every Toss A Bull’s-Eye