Via Patriots : Activshot Brings Automated Broadcasting to Sports
What do you get when you mix drones, automated cameras, unmanned vehicles, AI and video streaming?
It sounds like something from a Terminator sequel with Arnold saving the day or an advanced system for exploring distant planets. But this collection of video capture and processing systems makes up a service that can eventually cover countless competitive sports events – from golf to high school football – for which coverage is typically too tough to justify.
Live sports is alive and well below the pro and college level, but covering lower-level events has required the purchase of pricey cameras, paying their operators and delivering the captured content over the Internet to the largest possible audience.
The company contends it offers an elegant, low-cost option for venues that instead prefer Internet-quality productions mass consumed on smaller devices.
The promising upstart, named Activshot, is breaking down the cost wall by offering the items mentioned above as a leased element without camera operators required, and offers its solution using the as-a-service model which has proven successful with the IT needs of the largest of corporations.
Better still, the tech pioneer provides a means for the smaller events to monetize their event coverage by way of event sponsor advertising on the channel or a platform.
The upstart’s first focus has been on golf.
Proof of Life
What the company calls Video of Things (VoT) is a subset of the IoT industry combining programming and maker skills to produce un-manned camera systems and automated broadcasting systems.
“Just like ATMs forever changed the overhead and footprint of banking, similarly VoT should face few obstacles towards replacing the human camera operator. As machine vision and artificial intelligence constantly improve automated productions, so too will venues overcome the obstacles of broadcasting to a wider audience.” says Brent Martin, co-founder of Activshot.
Activshot is initially targeting golf, claiming it can build club revenues and membership, competitions that can be video streamed to a larger audience and growth in corporate golf days.
Activshot is seeking funding to go beyond Acecam, the first VoT camera system it developed and patented. It’s capable of capturing and broadcasting single-stroke achievements during rounds of golf.
This special cam has a potential market of 36,000 golf courses and uses machine vision to forensically identify Hole-In-One or Nearest-to-the-Pin achievements in multi-location amateur golf challenges, according to the company.
Seeing is believing. The startup has already archived over 2,500 verified sessions. The content is streamed back to the company’s portal where it can be viewed on a special channel by most anyone with Internet access or can be viewed on other live or video-on-demand platforms.
The tech pioneers expect to launch their service in the weeks ahead. Its name and technology is trademarked in the U.S. as Activshot and as Talent Streamer in South Africa. The full name of the company is Talent Streamer (Pty) Ltd. The co-founders found that Talentstreamer.com URL is already in use so it’s using Talentstreamer.net. Expect any confusion to be eliminated upon the startup’s formal launch.
Some of the material below is based on company presentations and included for those interested in enabling technologies.
How it Works
Think of Activshot’s value as resident in a service, not a hardware offering, with the smarts at the backend. By replacing the camera operator, the company seeks to further automate broadcasting by applying AI to the post-production cycle.
What enables this is the offloading of processing tasks from cameras to a group of cloud-based servers that serve as what the company calls an automated broadcast network (ABN).
“By reducing the role of the camera client-side to the mere task of streaming raw footage and collecting environmental data, we minimize hardware footprint and complexity; lower costs and power consumption and our post-production capabilities become limitless as the video and data stream arrive safely server-side” explained Talent Streamer Co-Founder and CTO Renier du Plessis.
Time-based video and data streams can be processed and enhanced by artificial editors and directors that stitch the best camera angles and overlay the audio and data layers into a quality end user experience. The final and most important task of the ABN is publishing the content to a Content Delivery Network (CDN) or various VoD platforms in accordance with the media rights holder’s preferences.
Live vs. Just-in-Time Streaming
Those interested in Activshot to capture their event(s) will have the option of receiving live video or delayed video. Delayed, the firm claims, may sound lesser, but actually requires a few seconds to minutes to apply AI to the production and employing. That and adding algorithms and caching methods that guarantee throughput from a venue to the cloud during unreliable network conditions are often worth the wait.
Activeshot claims the end-user experience can actually increase dramatically from the delay as the production can now be enriched with crowd-source content, collected by a time synchronized app, media rights holder content or commercial content. That’s in addition to the various data layers that can be formulated from the physical-world telemetry collected at the venues,” according to du Plessis.
Using non- professionals to cover an event creates challenges according to the Talent Streamer co- founder. “Approaches to crowd source content, for example using volunteers to stream ad hoc events, are fraught with difficulties. Productions often suffer from reliability or in quality, spectator bias and lack of context.”
Productions are subject to limitations of the hardware, and typically suffer from continuity problems, adverse conditions caused by the distance between the camera and the performer, lack in operator skills and camera stability, sub-optimal camera angles and focus in low light conditions, ambient noise and poor sound quality, according to Du Plessis.
Activshot isn’t just for those looking to broadcast video of their events over the Internet for the first time. In fact, many of those using manned cameras and special production could cut their costs by moving to the startup’s approach.
Many venues that host premier events prefer to opt for professional productions, with skilled camera operators, expensive outside broadcasting equipment and employ considerable production teams, noted du Plessis.
“While these type of productions result in a higher quality format ideal for traditional widescreen television viewing, the cost of high-end productions, exclude all but a few venues from regularly broadcasting hosted events. VoT offers an elegant, low-cost option for venues that instead prefer Internet quality productions that can be viewed on smaller devices.”
Talent Streamer hasn’t stopped at golf. In fact, it recently patented a camera system called COURTcam that automates the broadcasting of legal proceedings during court trials. It features witness protection capabilities and the stenographic record of the court can be overlaid in the final streamed production.
The ambitious company claims it’s working on further developing its ABN and continues to design and develop new un-manned camera systems for applications in education, sport, and entertainment as well as some medical applications.
The Bottom Line: Beyond Golf
This Rise of the Machines isn’t scary.
Automated broadcasting, in which content capture, delivery, post-production processing and display is handled by unmanned tech equipment and services can open up live streaming to a vast group of potential customers and viewers.
Though Activshot is first focused on golf, you can imagine other possibilities with the as-a-service package could provide new dimensions for other venue events. Think about it. In and outdoor weddings and receptions could be easily covered. High school sports could be shifted away from the one or two-camera coverage on community access cable. Even summer slow-pitch softball games could be shot, shown and archived.
Bob Wallace is a technology journalist with over 30 years of experience explaining how new services, apps, consumer electronic devices and video sources are reshaping the world of communications as we know it. Wallace has specific expertise in explaining how and why advances in technology redefine the way sports teams interact with their partners, players and fans. He’s the Founder of Fast Forward Thinking LLC.