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Innovation & Startups

The CMU Ball Cam: Watch any sport from the perspective of the ball

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a ball flying through the air, here's your chance.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo have collaborated on a camera and embedded it in the side of a foam-encased football, giving spectators a ball’s-eye view of what it’s like to spin through the air at great speed. (Watch it.)
Right now, it looks like your last migraine.
CMU researcher Kris Kitani agrees that the camera is far from ready for primetime. But he thinks it has tremendous potential with further development to be both useful and entertaining.
“If we can get stable video to the audience it could provide another way that spectators can enjoy football,” he suggests.
BallCam was developed as part of a larger study of digital sports. While other researchers have created multiple, throwable cameras that produce static images or stabilized video, this is the first system to use a single camera with a narrow field, which generates a more dynamic, wide-angle picture.
Stitching software is often used to discard the upward frames and stitch together the remaining frames to eliminate the distortion caused by the ball’s rotation.
The researchers are considering several possibilities. BallCam could be used as a training tool to capture information that might be useful to coaches or trainers. Or it might add interesting special effects to TV or movie productions.
Or perhaps it can be a mobile phone app that gives users a physical jolt every time a long pass by Ben Roethlisberger is caught.
Kitani’s last project was a mobile app that assists the vision impaired. With training, researchers found that images could be created with music to help people recognize basic shapes through different musical sounds.   
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Kris Katani, CMU
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