Contact:	Bob Nelson						For immediate release
		(212) 854-5573					June 5, 1997

360-Degree Videocam Developed at Columbia

___________________ Home Users Could Use Joystick to Bring Any View to TV Screen; Other Applications Seen in Security, Teleconferencing, Robotic Vision
A Columbia University computer scientist has developed a digital videocamera that can see in all directions at once. Placed atop a concert stage or at midfield of a sports event, the Omnicamera could provide a 360-degree view - an entire sphere - to television or Internet viewers. With a joystick or mouse, they could bring any view to their screens, and see not hemispheric perspective, but normal, undistorted, linear perspective. They could even create onscreen windows to see several views at once. As the camera has no moving parts, the number of viewers who can see the view they wish to see is limited only by the bandwidth of the connecting network. The technology is already in prototype at Columbia's School of Engineering and Applied Science, where Shree K. Nayar, professor of computer science, has spent six years researching his physics-based approach to artificial vision. His laboratory has developed four Omnicamera prototypes, with configurations for surveillance, teleconferencing, entertainment and robotic vision. The Omnicamera consists of a miniature digital videocamera mounted in a frame aimed directly at the apex of a parabolic mirror, a small inverted cup of polished metal enclosed within a transparent hemisphere. Columbia graduate student Venkat Peri has developed software that allows multiple Omnicamera images to be displayed on a computer screen in linear perspective at any magnification. Columbia has filed a U.S. patent application covering the Omnicamera videocamera and the Omnivideo software. "Computer vision research is attempting to construct systems that can perceive our environment using man-made sensors, such as cameras, in a way that is analogous to how we use our eyes," Professor Nayar said. "The Omnicamera can view more of a scene than the human eye can, which makes it valuable for a number of applications." Two Omnicameras mounted back to back can produce views of 360 degrees, a complete sphere, for surveillance or security operations. In teleconferences, an Omnicamera can show simultaneously every participant seated around a table, in either hemispheric or linear perspective. It will allow a mobile robot to hemisphere. The Omnicamera's parabolic optics ensure that it has a single effective center of projection, a single point through which all rays from a scene must pass on their way to the camera's lens. That design mimics a camera that takes in only linear perspective, and allows the Omnicamera's computer software to generate linear perspective images that are free of distortion. Other vision researchers have tried to create omnidirectional vision systems using fisheye lenses or planar, spherical, conical or pyramidal mirrors. Most of these do not yield the single viewpoint necessary to construct linear perspective images, or, if they do, use elaborate and hence expensive designs, Professor Nayar said. His other innovations include a computer vision system that can recognize an object it has seen before, even if the previous encounter was from a different angle or in different lighting. He has also produced a three-dimensional videocamera that can generate a depth map of a scene at video rate. For further Omnicamera information, or to see an online demonstration, visit the laboratory's web site: This document is available at Working press may receive science and technology press releases via e-mail by sending a message to 6.5.97 19,023