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Camera-Studded Dome Tracks Your Every Move With Precision

The "Panoptic Studio," which tracks movement inside it using 480 cameras. Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have assembled what they call a "Panoptic Studio," made of 480 cameras that track all movement within the geodesic dome pictured above. Unlike other motion-capture techniques, this one doesn't require the user to wear special infrared beacons or colorful balls for the cameras to track — the sheer number of cameras provide enough data on their own. In fact, the hard part is figuring out which cameras to use, and when.

"At some point, extra camera views just become noise," explained Hanbyul Joo, a grad student working on the project. Capturing a view of a person's hand from four different perspectives is great, but 40? Analyzing all that high-definition footage could be a lot of work and very little payoff. So the Panoptic Studio only chooses cameras that provide a useful view — though figuring that out isn't easy, either.

The video shows what's possible with the system, and it's remarkable. Not only are human movements captured in great detail, but small objects like boxes or bits of confetti are also reproduced exactly. Imagine playing a game and having your sword and shield positioned exactly right, while you are immersed in a virtual world via something like an Oculus headset. Perhaps Star Trek's "holodecks" aren't that far off, after all.

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