Sports fans get spy in the stadium system

The thrill of the football stadium could soon be brought to the living room couch via the internet. Called telepresence by its developers Perceptual Robotics, the technology already being installed at major baseball stadiums in the US, allows viewers with an internet connection to take live snapshots of great sporting events from any place in the stadium.

“From a camera behind the home plate, every spectator gets a good seat or even better ‘a player’s eye view’, said a spokeswoman.
Designed to appeal to voyeurs, techies, and sports fanatics, the systems have proved an instant hit in the states with up to 20,000 people at any one time spending up to half an hour a time clicking their way around hallowed sports stadia in pursuit of the arcane trivia or close-up views possible with the system.
By using a series of up to eight computer controlled cameras strategically placed around a sports site, the system allows those using a specially built internet view of a stadium to select the view they want to see at any time in a game complete with zoom instructions and then send that demand to the camera.
Special ultra fast connections and engines allow the cameras to field huge demands for views virtually simultaneously according to Paul Cooper, head of the company which started only three years ago.
“I think the reason that this has been so successful is because it’s interactive. We aren’t competing with television but we are allowing people to do a lot of things that they can’t with the existing media.
“We’re putting people in charge of what they look at and they like it. It’s one of the reasons that they get a sense of being there, because they can do a lot of things that people do at an event.”
Even down to snooping around a stadium or staring at people, a voyeuristic element Cooper admits that must have some appeal.

“We have started to get e-mails from people who are paralysed shut-ins who have thanked us for bringing them a world they could not have hoped to have seen,” said Cooper.

One of the company’s major coups so far this year has been to place a camera in the draft for the annual basketball league, which allowed spectators to see the order in which players are picked, the sort of detail that is guaranteed to send the average sports fan into ecstasies.
Coupled with the equivalent of entry to the boot-room at Liverpool and the opportunity to gaze at close-hand into the faces of sporting heroes and lure is virtually inescapable.
“We’re providing high quality interactive still photography to complement a game and we are already getting the sort of audiences considered respectable for a small TV station,” Cooper added.
It is a technology, which has already provided some humbling surprises.
“We have started to get e-mails from people who are paralysed shut-ins who have thanked us for bringing them a world they could not have hoped to have seen,” said Cooper.
The system, which uses lap-top computers connected to the internet to issue the demands for camera angles that are sorted out by a bank of desk-top computers in the US, also boasts cameras in places like Hollywood film studios and tourist attractions which have been used by holidaymakers to plan their breaks.
Before the announcement of it plans to become the digiterazzi at this year’s Major Baseball League, Perceptual Robotics best known coup has been to set up an internet camera on the Wailing Wall at Jerusalem, a camera which Cooper claims has seen an incredible traffic since going live last year.
Televising such events has provided Cooper and his employees with a remarkable insight into human nature, as requests by those using the technology are mapped and retained for market research. Information, which has helped Perceptual Robotics to rapidly learn the places to site cameras at an event.
The company has also learnt that people are remarkably similar in the way they snoop around an event and that it is not that cameramen at sporting events have been instructed to be voyeurs to titillate the audience, rather that they have been told to be themselves and find the odd, the beautiful, the comical and the cute in much the same way as an audience will do when the cameras are turned over to them. A trait Perceptual Robotics has learnt to turn to its advantage.
“We can tell where people are looking, what they are looking at and what attracts them,” said Cooper. “We can also change the web page depending on where you are looking to move you around to something you may be more interested in.”