Nikon's robotic cameras are designed to give sports teams the competitive edge

Nikon has taken the wraps off a couple of clever automated image-capture solutions, designed to both simplify small-scale TV studio production and provide advanced video analysis of sporting events. 

If this sounds like a bit of a departure for Nikon, it makes more sense when you learn that the technology has been developed by Mark Roberts Motion Control (MRMC), which is a manufacturer of cutting-edge solutions for motion control and broadcast robotics, and which was purchased by Nikon back in 2016.

The two new systems are known as Polycam Chat and Polycam Player, and are designed to enable broadcasters and sports organizations to capture unique angles and a wider range of multi-view perspectives, to enable improved analysis and reduce costs.

Polycam Chat

Polycam Chat is designed to do the job of multiple studio cameramen. The system uses face detection in combination with limb recognition to automate camera operation for up to four presenters and guests in one studio, with MRMC claiming that it can easily track a talking head with maximum stability within the frame. 

The control interface should also make it easy for operators to use, with the platform designed to be used with a range of different broadcast camera solutions (including Nikon DSLRs, naturally).

Polycam Player

With marginal gains often making the difference between success and failure, many sports teams and organizations are looking to take advantage of automated, high-mounted and wide-angle video analysis solutions, and that's where the Polycam Player comes in.

It's a robotic video-capture system that uses ChyronHego’s TRACAB player-tracking technology to physically move the camera and adjust the zoom and focus to keep subjects in shot. It's also designed to mimic the natural movement of a camera operator from locations where it would be dangerous or impractical to place a person. 

The information captured by the Polycam Player gives users the ability to analyze opponents and monitor player performance to help with strategy, while also offering broadcasters additional and unique viewpoints.

Four camera positions are available at launch, while the individual player-tracking solution also offers live composition control. This technology lets the operator tightly frame a player, and adjust the framing while automatically tracking them. Very clever stuff.

Phil Hall

Phil Hall is an experienced writer and editor having worked on some of the largest photography magazines in the UK, and now edit the photography channel of TechRadar, the UK's biggest tech website and one of the largest in the world. He has also worked on numerous commercial projects, including working with manufacturers like Nikon and Fujifilm on bespoke printed and online camera guides, as well as writing technique blogs and copy for the John Lewis Technology guide.