"Wouldn't it be cool if we could watch sports from the ball's point of view?" asked Kris Kitani, a post-doctoral fellow at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute.
Kitani and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon and at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo, Japan are working on just that.
"It took a couple of tries — shredded balls and broken cameras — to find a good way to put the camera inside of the ball," said Kitani, "in the end, we cut a hole in the side of the ball and pushed the camera in."
By embedding a camera inside of a football, the scientists are exploring a new area of research that Kitani calls Digital Sports.
Using cameras and other sensor-detector technology, Kitani is interested in how technology can aid in analyzing athlete training, augment the spectator experience of the sport, and even create new sports.
Kitani's specialty is computer vision, developing hardware and software that allows computers to recognize aspects of an image like face recognition or robotics that autonomously navigate a room.
BallCam, as the camera laden football is called, records image frames as the football is thrown. A computer algorithm then sorts through these frame, recognizes and tosses out the frames where the ball is facing the sky. The remaining field-facing frames are organized and lined up to create horizontal panoramas of the field as the ball moves down field towards its target.
In the video, the team demonstrates how the tilt-a-whirl like video of football flight can be reconstructed for a "ball's-eye view" of the pass.
Kitani's other research includes developing an experimental mobile app that translates images to sound for the blind. "I really think that the advances in hardware and software makes it a ripe time to explore the integration of technology and sports — Digital Sports," he said.