Camera in football records ball's flight

Feb. 27, 2013 at 7:35 PM
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PITTSBURGH, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. and Japanese researchers say a new system could give football fans watching televised games a new camera angle -- with the camera in the ball itself.

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo say a camera embedded in the side of a rubber-sheathed plastic foam football can record video while the ball is in flight to could give spectators a unique, ball's-eye view of the playing field.

Because a football can rapidly spin while in the air the raw video is an unwatchable blur, but the researchers have developed a computer algorithm that converts the raw video into a stable, wide-angle view, a Carnegie Mellon release reported Wednesday.

While the researchers acknowledge a football league is unlikely to approve camera-embedded footballs for regular play, their BallCam might be useful for TV, movie productions or training purposes, they said.

"We're interested in how technology can be used to enhance existing sports and how it might be used to create new sports," Kris Kitani, a post-doctoral fellow in Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, said. "In some cases, athletic play may be combined with arts or entertainment; a camera-embedded ball, for instance, might be used to capture the expressions on the face of players as they play catch with it."

When the BallCam is thrown in a clean spiral, the camera records a succession of frames as it rotates. When processing these frames, the algorithm uses the sky to determine which frames were made when the camera was looking up and which were made when it was looking down.

The upward frames are discarded and the remaining, overlapping frames are stitched together with special software to create a large panorama, the researchers said.

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