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"Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball - Day 3";´┐ŻBen Rodford used under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic
"Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball - Day 3"©Ben Rodford used under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

How can we track and analyse sporting excellence?

A hundredth of a second. A fraction of a centimetre. It's the difference between gold and silver in elite sport. As the margin between winning and losing continues to decrease, so athletes and audiences are looking for ever more detailed means of assessing sporting performance. But how can you track multiple athletes engaged in different events in a space the size of the London O2 Arena? That was the challenge met by DIRC for the London 2012 Paralympics.

For over ten years, DIRC has been developing and refining methods for tracking athletes at sporting events to obtain statistics on performance, tactics and fitness. Supported by the European Commission and working with premier league football clubs, DIRC researchers have developed new methods to extract information from video signals.

Building on this research, DIRC's Dr James Orwell developed a system to track the positions and speeds of the participants in the paralympic wheelchair basketball and rugby tournaments.

The system commissioned by deltatre and designed by Dr. Orwell was used as part of Channel 4's live coverage of 42 paralympic matches, across two events and deployed in two arenas. In each match, the system was used to generate graphics that were available during live coverage on the Channel 4 website, which streamed around 140 hours of live footage with comparable viewing figures to televised matches.

By providing statistics on speeds and impacts between players, the system was a component of the overall Paralympic coverage by Channel 4 that emphasised the strength and resilience of the competitors and challenged stereotypes about disabled people. The success of the system had a cultural and social impact on perceptions of disabled people by society at large and was recognised through the award of a BAFTA in the Television Craft (Digital Creativity) category.

Selected Publications

Xu, Ellis, Godshill, Jones: "Visual tracking of partially observable targets with suboptimal filtering." IET computer vision 5.1 (2011): 1-13.

M. Xu, J. Orwell et al: "Architecture and algorithms for tracking football players with multiple cameras." Vision, Image and Signal Processing, IEE Proceedings-. Vol. 152. No. 2. IET, 2005.

Kingston University Research Repository

Digital Imaging Research Centre (DIRC)

The Digital Imaging Research Centre at Kingston University is one of the largest computer vision groups in the UK, with internationally recognised expertise in visual surveillance, medical imaging and intelligent environments. Established in 2000, the centre applies high quality research to real industrial problems domestically and internationally.

Research at DIRC into methods for tracking athletes in an arena were developed into BAFTA-award-winning systems employed by Channel 4 at the 2012 London Paralympics. The system was deployed at the London O2 Arena and the Olympic Basketball arena to provide real-time analysis of player speeds, cumulative distances, impact magnitudes and other measures of sporting performance.

Funders / Partners / Collaborators