Canon wants fans to choose their own camera angle in this slick new VR system

What if you could watch that big game from the viewpoint of a player on the field and not a cameraman on the sidelines? That’s the question Canon is asking with the Free Viewpoint Video System, a sort of reverse-engineered 360-camera system that allows viewers to pick their vantage point, from the stadium seats to right next to the players on the field. The system creates a video-game-like view — except for actual games in real life. Canon will be displaying the system next month, but outside of sharing that the system is under development, the company hasn’t yet shared details on when the tech will be available.

A typical 360-degree camera captures multiple angles but all shot from the same central location on a camera body mounted somewhere, or on someone (like on a referee). The Free Viewpoint Video system instead arranges cameras from several locations around the stadium instead of from a single spot. Those high-resolution cameras are then connected to a network, with software that allows the game to be captured from all those different viewpoints simultaneously.

After the game is recorded from all those viewpoints, the software then creates a 3D spatial data map of the game, using all the data from the different angles to re-create the game in virtual reality. The result, Canon says, is a video that can be viewed from different angles, including on the field itself.

“The Free Viewpoint Video System offers a completely new, totally immersive visual experience that enables viewers to operate a virtual camera in 3-D space to move freely around the stadium and even experience the simulated physical sensation of being among players on the field during a game,” Canon’s press release reads.

With the announcement, Canon shared a video of a soccer game from 2016 that shows both an overhead, audience view, then even the point-of-view of the goalie. The company did not offer details on when such a camera system might come into play, only that the system is currently under development. The program has potential applications for viewing games with virtual reality headsets and mobile devices.

Along with giving fans the ability to view the game from the field, Canon says the system could also be used for training athletes, offering a literal new perspective as teams watch films to prepare for their next opponent. Canon says the images are processed “afterwards,” which suggests the camera system (or at least the first version) won’t offer an instant replay for challenged calls by the referees or live games.

The camera system is similar to the Intel system that allowed for the Be The Player POV shots during the 2017 Super Bowl.

Canon will be displaying the camera system next month at the Inter BEE 2017 in Chiba, Japan from November 15 to November 17.

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