"BallCam" could give football fans a wild, new view of the game

Robotics team places camera inside the ball

Football fans have multiple ways to watch games in today's world--from the big screen to mobile devices--and from any number of camera angles.  

Now, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Electro-Communications (UEC) in Tokyo are hoping to add one more view--from inside the ball!
 
Engineers are working on a single camera with a narrow field of view that captures video while the ball is in play.  Researchers at Carnegie Mellon say that unique, ball's eye view is possible, even though the ball is spinning at 600 rpm.
 
Here's how it works:  A special computer algorithm converts the raw, blurred video from the BallCam into a stable, wide-angle view.  
 
It does that by picking out the difference between the sky and the ground. Usually, the sky will be largely blue or a gray-white, and have little in the picture, while the ground image is darker and contains lots of pixels of varying colors and information. The algorithm exploits that difference to pick out which frames have something relevant to the ball's flight path.
 
Then, a piece of software stitches the remaining frames together to create a panorama, and corrects for distortions in the image that come from the speed of the ball's rotation.
 
For a look at how it works, click the video in the player below.  ( http://youtu.be/GEPl-vHW_98 )
 
 
Kris Kitani, a post-doctoral fellow in Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, says the NFL is unlikely to approve camera-embedded footballs for regular play anytime soon--but after further development, we might begin to see the BallCam used in TV, movie productions or training purposes. 
 
"We're interested in how technology can be used to enhance existing sports and how it might be used to create new sports," Kitani says.  In some cases, athletic play could be combined with arts or entertainment, and a camera-embedded ball could even be used to capture the expressions on the face of players as they play catch with it.
 
One of Kitani's co-authors, UEC's Kodai Horita, a visiting graduate student last year at the Robotics Institute, will present a paper about the BallCam on March 8 at the Augmented Human International Conference in Stuttgart, Germany.
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