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A Camera that Detects Vital Signs

Originally designed with the Olympic games in mind, the INCA intelligent camera, engineered by Fraunhofer researchers in Erlangen, Germany, is an augmented reality camera system. It is designed to send a continuous stream of metadata along with the video signal it transmits, so viewers can identify the relative velocities of everything in the signal, along with biometric data such as heart rate and temperature.

INCA not only renders images in HD broadcasting quality, it is also equipped with a diversity of sensors that provide data on GPS position, acceleration, temperature and air pressure. In addition, the camera can be seamlessly connected to external systems via Bluetooth or WLAN: for instance, a chest harness to track heart rate, or face recognition software that can open up completely new perspectives. This way, viewers may be able to catch even a small glimpse into the emotional life of the athletes. In addition, the camera can also be combined with object recognition and voice detection systems.

Not bad when you consider the incredibly small size of the device. The aperture is just two centimetres squared, and the entire camera is eight centimetres long. At no point does the diameter of the actual camera exceed that of the aperture.

The tiny INCA camera, just 2cm x 2cm x 8 cm

It is not a cheap camera by any means, and has been designed for as rugged a use as possible, capable of resisting sand, dust particles of any size, and all but immune to extremes of cold and heat. The casing is solid with no ventilation holes for anything to sneak into, and to compensate for that, the innards are solid-state, with as few moving parts as possible.

During its development, these issues posed major challenges to the scientists, as group manager Wolfgang Thieme of Fraunhofer IIS explains: "The core issue was figuring out how to house such a massive range of functionality within the tightest space. The OMAP processor (Open Multimedia Applications Platform) makes all of this possible. As the heart of the camera, this is comparable to a CPU that you find in any ordinary PC. The difference is that additional function blocks for various tasks have been integrated into the OMAP. Without these blocks, the system would neither record HD video images nor process and issue them in real time. The most difficult task was programming these blocks and using them for data processing."

The camera is not yet ready for commercial deployment, however working prototypes were displayed at the IBC trade show in Amsterdam, in early September 2012.

It is basically, a very early stage SimStim device, in that it is designed to work with sensors on the athlete to give the viewers access to as much additional data as to how the athlete is performing, and how they are feeling, as possible. It works in direct conjunction with any BAN or MBAN network on the athlete or other subject, whilst simultaneously keeping them in view from a distance, with broadcast-quality video recordings.

The processor and its software is intelligent enough to only transmit the metadata from sensors that are within its visual field – so you only gain the additional status data on subjects that you can see.

At present there is no system in place for standardising how this metadata will be delivered to the end-user, although it is recorded onto the video file.


Mini-camera with maxi-brainpower

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