Play Along With the Real World…

In Ad hoc Game Controllers – Use Whatever Comes to Hand, I described how simple webcam/video controlled games used simple motion detection to generate on-screen collision events when player movements intersected with the location of digital objects at some point on the screen. This contrasted with more sophisticated motion tracking algorithms used in motion capture software.

If you watch television sport at all, in particular golf, cricket, or tennis, you are likely to have seen computer graphics that ‘replay’ particular shots (tennis, cricket), or offer player’s eye view perspectives of the game setting (snooker).

The Hawkeye and PointTracker systems are capable of tracking a ball’s trajectory and then replaying it, as this video clip describes:

(To see an example of PointTracker in action, visit the 2006 US Open PointTracker website.)

A rather less exact approach appears to be used as part of the Cricinfo 3d visualisation, as described in this post by Martin Belam: Will virtual representations of sporting events become part of the online rights economy?: “Rather than just describing the action in near real-time, they show you, using a game engine to simulate the match being played in their Cricinfo 3D feature. As each ball in the over is bowled, a Shockwave plug-in on the web-page illustrates the action.”

In this case, it seems that a canned repertoire of bowls and shots is used as a palette from which a shot “replay” can be illustrated (rather than a faithful visualisation of an actual ball trajectory, and stroke played?)

Some time ago, I wondered aloud in a blog post about whether or not the time was approaching when the TV sports viewer might be able to ‘play along’ with TV sports action (Re:Play – The Future of Sports Gaming? “I’ll Take it From Here…”):

For example:

– in a cricket sim, rather than watch a replay of a particular delivery, you could take the bat and see if you could do better. The fielding positions and the actual flight of the ball (captured using something like HawkEye) would be faithful – at least at the start of the shot!

– in a snooker sim, you could pick up a (real) 147 break making frame after the reds have been cleared.

– in an F1 race, you could take over the drive from a real driver. The AI controlling the other drivers could directly simulate an actual race for at least as long as the time as your actions have no influence on any other particular car.

– in a round of golf, you could matchplay an actual game against someone else – or pick up the hole at any point in a championship winning round.

So what? you may say… Sounds a bit dull… just replaying some old game…

Ah yes – but what about if you ‘take it from here’ during the actual event and play along, maybe split screen style?

Or maybe during the TV replay, your digital ents box offers you a re:play? That is, you get to try the shot, etc. (maybe even ‘for real’, Wii style ;-)

It’d be one way of filling time while the adverts are on!

What this boils down to is interactive sports viewing; or in other words: “I could have made that one – here, I’ll show you…”.

So is the era of “interactive television sports” a real possibility? It would seem so…

Read this BBC Technology news post on Real racing in the virtual world. What information needs to be collected to create a “play along with the race” Formula One motor racing game? What problems can you foresee in this sort of playalong game, where several you are competing against real cars and drivers in real time, compared to what is essentially a turn based, single player game such as golf?

You can read more about iOpener’s approach to “real time racing” here: Real Time Racing.

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