A Tv Camera That Really Has A Roving Eye

Imagine watching baseball on television through a single camera that can pick up an image from all directions at once. While you're watching the batter, your neighbor could be looking at the right fielder. That's the idea behind a breakthrough by Bellcore, the jointly sponsored research arm of the Baby Bell phone companies. Bellcore's prototype "electronic panning camera" uses an array of video-imaging chips facing in different directions. A special computer knits together their outputs to produce a combined signal. Using a special TV set, viewers pick the vantage point they want to use.

On June 25, Bellcore showed off a version of the camera with a 60-degree field of view. But Lanny S. Smoot, director of multimedia communications systems research, sees no major obstacles to building a 360-degree camera. Besides shooting sports, such a camera could handle video conferences or monitor traffic. Bellcore plans to license the technology to manufacturers once it receives patents.

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