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Soccer World Cup promises forefront of live sport services

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March 4, 2006

Soccer World Cup promises forefront of live sport services

Soccer World Cup promises forefront of live sport services

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March 5, 2006 The FIFA World Cup has inspired more than a few brave plans for the employment of technology over the past few years, many of which never materialised. One that will be on show when the world descends on Germany in June and July is Servingo, a personalized portal designed to help the three million expected visitors to find their way around the twelve World Cup venues from Berlin to Munich. Every conceivable aspect of information related to the tournament is aggregated through the portal which was built at a cost of eight million euros with a view to helping World Cup visitors feel that they are "visiting friends". The portal is amazing, with a range of innovative features such as personally-tailored information systems and personal diary pages, but the highlight is the 3D reconstruction of scenes from the soccer match that enables the viewer to view a replay of key scenes from any point in the stadium – from the referee's perspective or the eyes of the goalkeeper. To make this possible, the team constructed 3D models of stadiums and compiled catalogs of players. An ingenious software program manages to generate the scenes from TV images. Sophisticated algorithms compare the 'visual template' of the virtual 3D players with the TV image and keep adjusting the virtual player's posture until it matches the video image. In this way, picture by picture, a scene from the match can be reproduced from any angle.

The personalized portal Servingo offers a central point of access to a wide variety of services for soccer fans in Germany for the World Cup, ranging from a navigation system to an event and location finder. Fans can discover everything worth knowing in connection with the soccer matches. The portal is the product of a research project aimed at developing an IT-assisted infotainment and logistics service platform. Its budget of approximately eight million euros is partly sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. The Servingo project is coordinated by the Computer Graphics Center ZGDV, while the Fraunhofer Institutes for Computer Graphics IGD and for Material Flow and Logistics IML are among the contributors to its technological development.

In order to use the portal, soccer fans have to submit a personal interest profile. With this information, the system compiles an individual plan for the day and reminds its user of dates and appointments. Servingo also provides services such as hotel bookings, lists of gas stations and up-to-the-minute reports from content providers linked to the portal such as Deutsche Welle or Kicker online. “A lot of this information is available from various sites on the Internet, but there I have to find it all myself,“ comments Daniel Holweg of the IGD.

"The advantage of the portal is that it combines all these items in one place and visitors receive information tailored to the wishes and interests set out in their personal profile. And they only have to log on once.“ A section of the portal will be activated for CeBIT. Anyone who would like to try it out can register on www.servingo.de using a cell phone, PDA or laptop computer – the only requirement is Internet access. "Our objective was to provide a robust showcase in time for the World Cup, not just a demonstrator of what our technology can do," says Holweg.

A special highlight of the system is its journaling service, which is linked to a routing system. In this, a user can simply take a photo with his cell phone camera of any place that he finds interesting or particularly attractive, and thus define a personal 'point of interest'. The images and personal impressions are transmitted to the portal, where they are saved. The system automatically compiles a journal from these entries at the end of the day. It also helps the visitor to find his way back to these special places without having to remember where they were.

The research project offers more than just these services. One application, available only to a limited circle of users, is the 3D reconstruction of scenes from the soccer match. “By three-dimensional, we mean not only the way the observer perceives the presentation, but the way we process the data. You can view a replay of key scenes in the soccer match from any point in the stadium,“ explains Servingo project manager Dirk Balfanz of the ZGDV. “You can view the action from the referee's perspective, you can take up a virtual position behind the goal, or you can even see it all through the eyes of the goalkeeper.

“To make this possible, the team constructed 3D models of stadiums and compiled catalogs of players. An ingenious software program manages to generate the scenes from TV images. “We are able to work with the low quality of these images, and we don't need trackers for the people or for any of the hardware in the stadium either,” says Balfanz. “So how does it work? Sophisticated algorithms compare the 'visual template' of the virtual 3D players with the TV image and keep adjusting the virtual player's posture until it matches the video image. In this way, picture by picture, a scene from the match can be reproduced.”

The Servingo consortium:

    CAS Software AG DAI-Labor ehotel AG GIStec GmbH Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML InfoRoad GmbH INTERGRAPH GmbH itCampus GmbH T-Systems GmbH Computer Graphics Center ZGDV e.V.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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