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Automatic Highlights

Don’t have time to watch your favorite team? At Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing, China, computer scientists Hongjiang Zhang, Yufei Ma, and Gu Xu have developed software that automatically generates highlight reels from video of sports programs. Import the video onto a PC, and computer vision algorithms recognize objects on the screen, like balls or people. The software then identifies key events, such as the ball going through a basketball hoop or into a soccer goal. “Sport has grammar,” says Zhang, and the computer can use that grammar to organize its summary of a game’s important plays. Related software can also edit TV programs into segments of interest, such as news and weather forecasts, so the viewer doesn’t have to watch an entire broadcast. It’s all still being tested, but Zhang says these features could be part of Microsoft home entertainment software within a few years – in time, perhaps, for the 2008 Olympics. Look out, ESPN.

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