Loughborough University
Thesis-2015-Oldham.pdf (5.31 MB)

Table tennis event detection and classification

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posted on 2015-11-25, 14:14 authored by Kevin M. Oldham
It is well understood that multiple video cameras and computer vision (CV) technology can be used in sport for match officiating, statistics and player performance analysis. A review of the literature reveals a number of existing solutions, both commercial and theoretical, within this domain. However, these solutions are expensive and often complex in their installation. The hypothesis for this research states that by considering only changes in ball motion, automatic event classification is achievable with low-cost monocular video recording devices, without the need for 3-dimensional (3D) positional ball data and representation. The focus of this research is a rigorous empirical study of low cost single consumer-grade video camera solutions applied to table tennis, confirming that monocular CV based detected ball location data contains sufficient information to enable key match-play events to be recognised and measured. In total a library of 276 event-based video sequences, using a range of recording hardware, were produced for this research. The research has four key considerations: i) an investigation into an effective recording environment with minimum configuration and calibration, ii) the selection and optimisation of a CV algorithm to detect the ball from the resulting single source video data, iii) validation of the accuracy of the 2-dimensional (2D) CV data for motion change detection, and iv) the data requirements and processing techniques necessary to automatically detect changes in ball motion and match those to match-play events. Throughout the thesis, table tennis has been chosen as the example sport for observational and experimental analysis since it offers a number of specific CV challenges due to the relatively high ball speed (in excess of 100kph) and small ball size (40mm in diameter). Furthermore, the inherent rules of table tennis show potential for a monocular based event classification vision system. As the initial stage, a proposed optimum location and configuration of the single camera is defined. Next, the selection of a CV algorithm is critical in obtaining usable ball motion data. It is shown in this research that segmentation processes vary in their ball detection capabilities and location out-puts, which ultimately affects the ability of automated event detection and decision making solutions. Therefore, a comparison of CV algorithms is necessary to establish confidence in the accuracy of the derived location of the ball. As part of the research, a CV software environment has been developed to allow robust, repeatable and direct comparisons between different CV algorithms. An event based method of evaluating the success of a CV algorithm is proposed. Comparison of CV algorithms is made against the novel Efficacy Metric Set (EMS), producing a measurable Relative Efficacy Index (REI). Within the context of this low cost, single camera ball trajectory and event investigation, experimental results provided show that the Horn-Schunck Optical Flow algorithm, with a REI of 163.5 is the most successful method when compared to a discrete selection of CV detection and extraction techniques gathered from the literature review. Furthermore, evidence based data from the REI also suggests switching to the Canny edge detector (a REI of 186.4) for segmentation of the ball when in close proximity to the net. In addition to and in support of the data generated from the CV software environment, a novel method is presented for producing simultaneous data from 3D marker based recordings, reduced to 2D and compared directly to the CV output to establish comparative time-resolved data for the ball location. It is proposed here that a continuous scale factor, based on the known dimensions of the ball, is incorporated at every frame. Using this method, comparison results show a mean accuracy of 3.01mm when applied to a selection of nineteen video sequences and events. This tolerance is within 10% of the diameter of the ball and accountable by the limits of image resolution. Further experimental results demonstrate the ability to identify a number of match-play events from a monocular image sequence using a combination of the suggested optimum algorithm and ball motion analysis methods. The results show a promising application of 2D based CV processing to match-play event classification with an overall success rate of 95.9%. The majority of failures occur when the ball, during returns and services, is partially occluded by either the player or racket, due to the inherent problem of using a monocular recording device. Finally, the thesis proposes further research and extensions for developing and implementing monocular based CV processing of motion based event analysis and classification in a wider range of applications.


Graduate School



  • Science


  • Computer Science


© Kevin M. Oldham

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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