Friday, May 11, 2012

A day at the races

Many years ago, whilst working on an electronics journal in the United Kingdom, I was invited to a press conference to witness the unveiling of what was claimed to be the next big thing in electronic systems.

To ensure that as many folks turned up as possible, the organizers of the event decided to hold the conference at one of England's famous race tracks,  where they invited the press to remain after the company presentations to enjoy the rest of the day betting on the horses.

As it transpired, the press conference itself turned out to be a crashing bore -- the system itself had already been launched months earlier in the US, and most of the press knew about it already. Sadly, the view of the racetrack wasn't much better. You see, although the organizers had erected a tent as close to the racecourse as possible, the view from it was somewhat restricted. The result was that the horses could only been seen for mere seconds as they raced by.

Now, I'm pleased to say, a solution to this problem is a hand, thanks to a couple of savvy students from the University of Arizona (Tucson, Arizona, USA) who have come up with a solution based, of course, on the use of a vision system. That’s right. David Matt and Kenleigh Hobby’s new 'jockey cam' is a smart camera-based helmet that can stream real-time video from a jockey's head, putting the viewers right in the saddle rather than stuck by the side of the track.

The two entrepreneurs have even launched a new company called EquiSight to market the system, and have captured the attention of ESPN, the Ireland Tourism Board, racetracks around the world and venture capital investors.

Since starting the company, it's been a whirlwind ride for the pair. In December 2011 they presented their system to more than 600 racing and gaming executives at the 38th Annual Symposium on Racing and Gaming in Tucson. In February 2012, they filmed 30 jockey-cam videos at prestigious race tracks and training centers on the East Coast. And in March 2012, Wasabi Ventures (San Mateo, CA, USA) selected EquiSight to receive venture capital support.

EquiSight, which now holds three provisional patents on its technology, also recently inked an agreement with an engineering design firm to explore the potential application of helmet-cam technology for the military and law enforcement.

As a member of the press, of course, I'm now looking forward to the day when I'm invited to take a look at the system at a press conference here in the good old US of A. Needless to say, if it's held at a race track, it's bound to be more enjoyable than the last press conference I attended at such an event all those years ago.

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