By now, those who regularly watch football on TV are accustomed to seeing the yellow first-down line superimposed on the field. This line, produced by Sportvision's 1st and Ten system, lets viewers see exactly how far a team must go to reach a first down. The 1st and Ten technology debuted in 1998, and now, most football fans, even the purists of the sport, can't imagine watching a game without it.
Using that technology in motor sports is a bit more tricky, since race cars are moving at extremely high speeds. Imagine trying to hit a moving target from thousands of miles away. That's what RACEf/x does. Using satellites, RACEf/x pinpoints a car within millimeters of its actual position. Then television cameras superimpose a tinted halo around that car and places a graphic of information above it as it flies around the track.
Here are the key components of the RACEf/x system:
- GPS Satellites - A network of these satellites that are used to find the position of cars as they move around the track. These satellites works with a Earth-based navigation system to to track the position of each car within 20 millimeters of the car's actual position.
- In-car Sensors - These electronics and computer inside the car that help the GPS satellites find the position of the cars. These electronics also enable TV networks to collect various statistical information, such as gear position, RPM, speed, acceleration, fuel consumption and braking. This information is collected at a rate of 10 times per second and flashed on the screen.
- TV Cameras - In addition to sending video to the RACEf/x system, cameras also transmit their position to the system. This assists in the tracking of the cars.
- Digital Mapping - Sportvision makes a 3-D map of the race track. This track model is merged with information from the cars and cameras to display the location of the car as the race is televised.
Currently, fans cannot control which cars are highlighted on the television screen; but Sportvision has said that it could eventually give consumers a set-top box that would allow them to individualize the cars they want to see. In the next section, you'll learn more about the future applications of this technology.