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sound-seeking swivel base

Camera base that turns towards sound source
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When videoconferencing two groups, there often isn't enough bandwidth or equipment to show all participants all of the time.

Imagine a device placed in the middle of the conferencing tables in both locations. It has one "head" end which it turns towards the loudest sound source in the room. An independently manufactured videoconferencing camera is placed in its middle pointing to the head end. It will now turn to the speaker.

This works better for a camera with autofocus, and there are some details about the algorithm to get right: the camera should be "lazy"(don't pan around unnecessarily) yet reactive, and it shouldn't get tangled up in cable if people speak in the same order around the table. The device also needs to be quiet enough not to interfere with a microphone placed on it.

Maybe this could be done using a stationary camera and merely a swiveling mirror.

jutta, Aug 31 1999

PolyCom ViewStation http://www.polycom....ts/video_small.html
Probably what Dan is talking about [rmutt, Aug 31 1999]

Panoramic video from multiple cameras http://www.fxpal.xe...cam/flycam_home.htm
They're working on the microphones, I'm told. [rmutt, Aug 31 1999]

Ring Cam http://research.mic...ringcam/ringcam.htm
Just about exactly what [johan] was speculating on. Note the array mics in the lower image; they turn on the camera showing the person who is speaking. [bristolz, May 20 2002]


       I've seen this done with a special wireless microphone. The camera swivels to point at the microphone. Mostly, this was intended to follow a pacing lecturer.
Eeyore, Mar 02 2000

       We've actually got one of these in the research building where I work. It's got four microphones (phased-array, to locate the sound) and a Sony controllable-swivel camera.   

       The only problem with it is that people tend to talk back and forth for several seconds at a time, so the camera's always swivelling back and forth.
dan, Mar 06 2000

       One solution would be to have a cluster of cameras in the center of the room (or table), connected to some CPU that monitors the phased array of mic's. So instead of lots of camera panning, each camera would cover one chunk of the room. (4 cameras == 90 degrees) Seems like some of the panning could also be avoided by zooming in and out.   

       The next cool thing would be to write software for the CPU which would speculate who was going to speak next. There's probably a "self-fulfilling prophecy" trap here, though. As the cameras panned towards the next most likely speaker, the speaker, seeing the camera aim at it, would then feel compelled to talk. Pretty entertaining, come to think of it.   

       I wonder how much long-term analysis of individuals voice and speaking patterns could be done to further "predict" how long someone was going to speak. The CPU could store the profiles. (E.g. name=johan min_speak_time=5m interrupts_others=seldom)
johan, Mar 06 2000

       Just strap a camera to somebody's head and voila. no techno-gadget needed.
sh4linux, Aug 22 2001, last modified Aug 23 2001

       I posted the same idea yesterday and jutta linked to this site. I deleted my post -- thank you for notifying me jutta. I would like to suggest that a parabolic microphone, and recent advances in acoustic triangulation and face recognition technology be adapted to enhance this already sound (no pun intended) idea.
Sunstone, Aug 21 2008

       And [Normzone] yesterday as well - however theirs had the distinct advantage of the joke-flower-squirting-nozzle functionality.
pocmloc, Jan 31 2010

       What happens when an unintended sound is made? In a fast panning system, a falling book would cause it to jolt to that direction, confusing people on the other end. In a slow panning system, it would waste time panning towards the book and then back.
classnerd, Mar 08 2010


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