A friend of mine who works in television once told me how he was shooting a hockey game, and was impressed with his uncanny ability to keep the puck centered in the shot at all times ... it turns out that the “puck” he was following was actually a speck of dirt on his viewfinder. A new system from the University of Tokyo, however, can automatically follow moving objects such as pucks with amazing accuracy.
Developed by Kohei Okumura, Hiromasa Oku and Masatoshi Ishikawa, the 1ms Auto Pan-Tilt system incorporates what is known as a high-speed optical gaze controller. In the same way that autofocus is able to always keep the subject in focus, this controller can always keep them centered in the frame. It does this not by moving the entire camera, but by rapidly moving a couple of mirrors that the camera is shooting into. One of those mirrors pans, while the other one tilts.
The system utilizes a 1,000 frame-per-second high-speed vision targeting system, hence the “1ms” in the name. This allows the mirrors to react to changes in the subject’s speed or trajectory in no more than 3.5 milliseconds, which is the amount of time required for either of them to move a full 60 degrees, their panning and tilting limit.
The camera used in the system shoots in Full HD at 500 frames-per-second, so it could conceivably find use in televised sports. It is also suggested, however, that it could be used for shooting fast-moving subjects such as birds, insects, cars or aircraft.
Check out the demo video below, in which the 1ms Auto Pan-Tilt system maintains a close-up of the ball during a game of table tennis.