Robot cameras bring The Matrix to sports television


posted Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 2:20 PM EST


This is really cool... 

What would Lebron James look like if he was a character in The Matrix? We might get to find out some day if Sci-Fi-worthy multi-viewpoint camera technology being developed by a Japanese broadcast company makes it to the mainstream.

With the ability to create real "bullet time" slow motion replays from numerous angles, the multi-viewpoint camera system is currently being built by Japan's national broadcasting organization, NHK. And just as Keanu Reeves' character Neo from The Matrix is able dodge speeding bullets in slow motion, we may get to see Lebron leaping over opponents and dunking a basketball in a slowed down, multi-angle effect.

"Using this system, you can create the effect of stopping time and moving the viewpoint all around the subject," an NHK representative says in the below video from Diginfonews. "Previous methods used a fixed camera, so they could only capture subjects moving in a narrow or limited space. But this multi-viewpoint robot camera system can film dynamically moving sports, or subjects at lots of locations in an extensive space."


NHK's multi-viewpoint system links the motion of eight sub cameras to one main camera, so all the units are capturing the same moving object at the same time. Each robot camera has two motors for panning and tilting and the cameras share lens data so they can zoom and pull back in unison.

What's unique here is that the cameras aren't just panning and tilting in lockstep, they're rotating by varying amounts, to overcome the extreme parallax between their respective locations, so they're all "looking" at exactly the same point. As you can see in the video above, the results are pretty impressive. (Note too, that nothing says you have to freeze the motion to shift perspective: While we're not sure of the capabilities of the current system, theoretically, this could be applied to live video in real time.)


The live sports applications are the most obvious but NHK also hopes to integrate the technology in future 3D broadcasting to create a more immersive experience for the viewer.

"We'd like to make it easy to understand what's happening (on the screen), by providing multi-viewpoint pictures instead of the current slow-motion replay," the NHK representative says.

(Via Bit Rebels)