Intel marries 3D camera tech to Replay’s 3D video tech

After working with the Israeli start-up since 2013, the US tech giant buys it for a reported $180 millon

A Replay camera ready for action at the stadium (Courtesy)
A Replay camera ready for action at the stadium (Courtesy)

Intel’s made-in-Israel RealSense 3D camera technology on Wednesday got an Israeli-developed 3D viewing companion that will provide an immersive, three-dimensional viewing experience for sports fans.

The tech giant announced Wednesday that it was acquiring Tel Aviv-based Replay Technologies, which supplies “immersive sports” technology for broadcasters.

The American company, said Intel Capital’s Wendell Brooks in a blog post, has been working with Replay since 2013, and “as a natural next step in our collaboration, today we’re excited to announce that Intel signed an agreement to acquire Replay Technologies. Founded in 2011 and headquartered in Israel, Replay’s proprietary freeD format uses high-resolution cameras and compute intensive graphics to let viewers see and experience sporting events from any angle.”

Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but reports in the Israeli media pegged the deal at $170 million.

Replay specializes in seamless 3D video rendering, allowing a viewer to see a scene from any angle as it would be seen live – a kind of holographic model of the action, but on a screen. While the tech could be used for any rendition of a video action scene, Intel plans to use it to develop what it calls “immersive sports, a new category for sports entertainment that is “attracting the attention of leagues, venues, broadcasters and fans,” wrote Brooks.

Replay’s “freeD” video format, according to the company, uses algorithms that are able to create 3D-pixels of the entire surface area of a scene to build the scene in real time, based on the 2D image, taking into consideration distance, lighting, exposure, objects in the image, and other criteria. The result is an image that effectively mimics a hologram, allowing it to be viewed in a single scene from any angle.

A good example of that was on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, where Intel CEO announced Intel’s collaboration with Replay,and showed off the technology in a video clip. At last month’s NBA All-Star Game, said Brooks, Replay’s freeD technology “created a seamless 3-D video rendering of the court using 28 ultrahigh-definition cameras positioned around the arena and connected to Intel-based servers. This system allowed broadcasters to give fans a 360-degree view of key plays – providing thrilling replays and highlight reels that let fans see the slam dunks, blocks and steals from almost every conceivable angle.”

With the acquisition by Intel, the system will now likely be integrated into Intel products – including Intel’s RealSense camera technology. Developed in Haifa, the system sees the distance between objects, separating objects from the background layers behind them. This gives much better object, facial and gesture recognition than a traditional camera, according to the company. This visual data creates a touch-free interface that responds to hand, arm, and head motions as well as facial expressions, said Igal Iancu, a senior manager on Intel’s RealSense 3D vision tech team.

As part of Intel, the conpany said, Replay will focus on growing its existing business and advancing its technology to deliver faster processing and new features like the ability to manipulate and edit personalized content. “Technology now plays an unprecedented role in sports … and we’re just getting started,” said Brooks.

Replay had raised about $40 million from various sources, some of it via the crowdfunding platform of OurCrowd.

“We are delighted with today’s news about the Intel acquisition of Replay Technology,” said OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved. “This is good news for Replay and its investors and for Intel. We believe that together Replay and Intel will create even more excitement in the fast growing area of sports technology.”

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