Virtual Video That Lets You Call The Shots

A Tennessee company has developed a "virtual eye" that lets a viewer pan, zoom, and tilt while watching video recorded by a stationary camera. Omniview is a box that goes between the video source and a monitor. It converts live or recorded video into digital format and then manipulates it. Someone watching a videoconference could tell the box to zoom in on one person, then another. Omniview, made by TRI Inc. in Knoxville, also corrects the distortion caused by a fish-eye lens. A camera could take in a wide field of view, up to 110 degrees, and a viewer could "pan" across it.

Veterans of Oak Ridge National Laboratory began work on the system back in 1986. Just this year, TRI managed to make the system fast enough, at more than 600 million instructions per second, to manipulate live video. The first product, devised for building security, is $9,950. Motorola Inc. bought a minority stake in the private company this year. One caveat: Omniview can't display more detail than exists in the original video stream, so extreme close-ups aren't very detailed.

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