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Ball-Mounted Cam Provides Unique View of Football Field

Football-mounted video camera (Robotics Institute, Carengie Mellon University)

Football-mounted video camera (Robotics Institute, Carengie Mellon University)

Engineers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and University of Electro-Communications (UEC) in Tokyo designed a miniature video camera mounted inside a football, with an algorithm to process the images, to provide a view of the game rarely, if ever, seen. Carnegie Mellon’s Kris Katani and UEC’s Kodai Horita will describe their system in a presentation on 8 March at the Augmented Human International Conference in Stuttgart, Germany.

Horita, a visiting graduate student last year, and Katani, a postdoctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, embedded a miniature camera in the side of rubber coated football (pictured right) that can record video while the ball is in flight. A real quarterback throws the football in a spiral with the ball spinning at a rate of up to 600 RPMs. As a result, the raw video from the camera is an unrecognizable blur.

The researchers, however, devised an algorithm that converts the video images into a stable, wide-angle view. When the ball is thrown in a tight spiral, the camera records a succession of frames as the ball rotates. The algorithm uses the position of the sky to determine the frames made when the camera pointed upward, and the frames made when the camera was looking down.

The algorithm then discards the upward-view frames, leaving the remaining, overlapping frames that are then stitched together with special software to create a large panorama. The stitching feature is similar to software used by NASA to combine images from its Mars rovers into large panoramas and is increasingly found in digital cameras. The algorithm also corrects distortions in the image from the speed of the spiral rotations that twist the yard lines.

While the view it provides is unique, the embedded camera would not likely be used in real football games, because of its potential to disrupt the play. But the system could be useful for training or entertainment videos. “In some cases, athletic play may be combined with arts or entertainment,” says Kitani. “A camera-embedded ball, for instance, might be used to capture the expressions on the face of players as they play catch with it.”

Horita’s UEC colleagues Hideki Sasaki and Hideki Hoike participated in development of the system and will be part of the presentation in Stuttgart.

The following brief video demonstrates video captured with the ball-mounted camera, both with and without processing by the algorithm.

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