CA2647956C - Sports simulation system - Google Patents

Sports simulation system Download PDF

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Publication number
CA2647956C
CA2647956C CA2647956A CA2647956A CA2647956C CA 2647956 C CA2647956 C CA 2647956C CA 2647956 A CA2647956 A CA 2647956A CA 2647956 A CA2647956 A CA 2647956A CA 2647956 C CA2647956 C CA 2647956C
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Canada
Prior art keywords
projectile
launch
sports
display surface
region
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Active
Application number
CA2647956A
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French (fr)
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CA2647956A1 (en
Inventor
Wayne Dawe
Zuqiang Zhao
Todd Richardson
Current Assignee (The listed assignees may be inaccurate. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the list.)
INTERACTIVE SPORTS TECHNOLOGIES Inc
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INTERACTIVE SPORTS TECHNOLOGIES INC.
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Filing date
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Priority to US11/394,004 priority Critical patent/US20070238539A1/en
Priority to US11/394,004 priority
Application filed by INTERACTIVE SPORTS TECHNOLOGIES INC. filed Critical INTERACTIVE SPORTS TECHNOLOGIES INC.
Priority to PCT/CA2007/000517 priority patent/WO2007112560A1/en
Publication of CA2647956A1 publication Critical patent/CA2647956A1/en
Application granted granted Critical
Publication of CA2647956C publication Critical patent/CA2647956C/en
Application status is Active legal-status Critical
Anticipated expiration legal-status Critical

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Classifications

    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B69/00Training appliances or apparatus for special sports
    • A63B69/36Training appliances or apparatus for special sports for golf
    • A63B69/3658Means associated with the ball for indicating or measuring, e.g. speed, direction
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B24/00Electric or electronic controls for exercising apparatus of preceding groups; Controlling or monitoring of exercises, sportive games, training or athletic performances
    • A63B24/0003Analysing the course of a movement or motion sequences during an exercise or trainings sequence, e.g. swing for golf or tennis
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B24/00Electric or electronic controls for exercising apparatus of preceding groups; Controlling or monitoring of exercises, sportive games, training or athletic performances
    • A63B24/0021Tracking a path or terminating locations
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B71/00Games or sports accessories not covered in groups A63B1/00 - A63B69/00
    • A63B71/06Indicating or scoring devices for games or players, or for other sports activities
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06TIMAGE DATA PROCESSING OR GENERATION, IN GENERAL
    • G06T7/00Image analysis
    • G06T7/20Analysis of motion
    • G06T7/292Multi-camera tracking
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B24/00Electric or electronic controls for exercising apparatus of preceding groups; Controlling or monitoring of exercises, sportive games, training or athletic performances
    • A63B24/0021Tracking a path or terminating locations
    • A63B2024/0028Tracking the path of an object, e.g. a ball inside a soccer pitch
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B24/00Electric or electronic controls for exercising apparatus of preceding groups; Controlling or monitoring of exercises, sportive games, training or athletic performances
    • A63B24/0021Tracking a path or terminating locations
    • A63B2024/0028Tracking the path of an object, e.g. a ball inside a soccer pitch
    • A63B2024/0031Tracking the path of an object, e.g. a ball inside a soccer pitch at the starting point
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B24/00Electric or electronic controls for exercising apparatus of preceding groups; Controlling or monitoring of exercises, sportive games, training or athletic performances
    • A63B24/0021Tracking a path or terminating locations
    • A63B2024/0028Tracking the path of an object, e.g. a ball inside a soccer pitch
    • A63B2024/0034Tracking the path of an object, e.g. a ball inside a soccer pitch during flight
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B71/00Games or sports accessories not covered in groups A63B1/00 - A63B69/00
    • A63B71/06Indicating or scoring devices for games or players, or for other sports activities
    • A63B71/0619Displays, user interfaces and indicating devices, specially adapted for sport equipment, e.g. display mounted on treadmills
    • A63B71/0622Visual, audio or audio-visual systems for entertaining, instructing or motivating the user
    • A63B2071/0625Emitting sound, noise or music
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B71/00Games or sports accessories not covered in groups A63B1/00 - A63B69/00
    • A63B71/06Indicating or scoring devices for games or players, or for other sports activities
    • A63B71/0619Displays, user interfaces and indicating devices, specially adapted for sport equipment, e.g. display mounted on treadmills
    • A63B71/0622Visual, audio or audio-visual systems for entertaining, instructing or motivating the user
    • A63B2071/06363D visualisation
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B71/00Games or sports accessories not covered in groups A63B1/00 - A63B69/00
    • A63B71/06Indicating or scoring devices for games or players, or for other sports activities
    • A63B71/0619Displays, user interfaces and indicating devices, specially adapted for sport equipment, e.g. display mounted on treadmills
    • A63B71/0622Visual, audio or audio-visual systems for entertaining, instructing or motivating the user
    • A63B2071/0638Displaying moving images of recorded environment, e.g. virtual environment
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2207/00Exercising or sporting devices provided with means enabling use in the dark
    • A63B2207/02Powered illuminating means
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2220/00Measuring of physical parameters relating to sporting activity
    • A63B2220/05Image processing for measuring physical parameters
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2220/00Measuring of physical parameters relating to sporting activity
    • A63B2220/10Positions
    • A63B2220/16Angular positions
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2220/00Measuring of physical parameters relating to sporting activity
    • A63B2220/20Distances or displacements
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2220/00Measuring of physical parameters relating to sporting activity
    • A63B2220/30Speed
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2220/00Measuring of physical parameters relating to sporting activity
    • A63B2220/30Speed
    • A63B2220/34Angular speed
    • A63B2220/35Spin
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2220/00Measuring of physical parameters relating to sporting activity
    • A63B2220/40Acceleration
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2220/00Measuring of physical parameters relating to sporting activity
    • A63B2220/80Special sensors, transducers or devices therefor
    • A63B2220/805Optical or opto-electronic sensors
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2220/00Measuring of physical parameters relating to sporting activity
    • A63B2220/80Special sensors, transducers or devices therefor
    • A63B2220/806Video cameras
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2220/00Measuring of physical parameters relating to sporting activity
    • A63B2220/80Special sensors, transducers or devices therefor
    • A63B2220/807Photo cameras
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06TIMAGE DATA PROCESSING OR GENERATION, IN GENERAL
    • G06T2207/00Indexing scheme for image analysis or image enhancement
    • G06T2207/30Subject of image; Context of image processing
    • G06T2207/30221Sports video; Sports image
    • G06T2207/30224Ball; Puck

Abstract

A sports simulation system includes a projectile tracking apparatus having a display surface on which a visually apparent three-dimensional sports scene is presented. The projectile tracking apparatus captures images of a projectile tracking region disposed in front of the display surface to detect a launched projectile traveling through the projectile tracking region towards the display surface. A projectile launch area sensing unit captures images of the projectile launch area. At least one processing stage communicates with the projectile tracking apparatus and the projectile launch area sensing unit and is responsive to the data received therefrom to determine the three-dimensional positions, velocity, acceleration and spin of a detected projectile traveling through the projectile tracking region. The determined three-dimensional positions, velocity, acceleration and spin are used by the at least one processing stage to calculate a trajectory of the launched projectile into the visually apparent three-dimensional sports scene. Updated image data is generated by the at least one processing stage that includes a simulation of the launched projectile into the visually apparent three-dimensional sports scene following the calculated trajectory. A projection unit coupled to the at least one processing stage receives the image data from the at least one processing stage and presents the visually apparent three-dimensional sports scene, including the simulation, on the display surface.

Description

SPORTS SIMULATION SYSTEM
Related Applications [0001] This application is related to U.S. Patent Application Serial No.
10/629,945 filed on July 30, 2003 for an invention entitled "Sports Simulation System" and to U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 11/195,017 filed on August

2, 2005 for an invention entitled "Sports Simulation System".
Field of the Invention [0002] The present invention relates generally to entertainment systems and in particular to a sports simulation system.
Background of the Invention

[0003] Sports simulation systems designed to simulate sports experiences are well known in the art. In many conventional sports simulation systems, a player propels a sports projectile such as a ball, puck, arrow, dart, etc. at a target image presented on a display screen. The motion of the sports projectile is detected and imaged and an extrapolation of the trajectory of the sports projectile is made. The extrapolated trajectory is then used to determine a sports result. The displayed image is in turn updated to reflect the sports result thereby to provide the player with visual feedback and simulate a sports experience.
100041 The goal of all sports simulation systems is to provide the player with a realistic sports experience. As a result, many variations of sports simulation systems have been considered in attempts to simulate accurately "real-life" sports experiences.
For example, U.S. Patent No. 5,333,874 to Arnold et al. discloses a sports simulator having a housing and two arrays of infrared (IR) receivers and emitters positioned in the housing. A launch area is established near one end of the housing. A user can launch an object such as a golf ball located in the launch area and drive the golf ball into the housing through the planes defined by the arrays of IR emitters and against a screen positioned at one end of the housing. A computer is connected to the IR

receivers, which detect the passage of the object through the respective planes. Based upon the signals from the IR receivers, the computer uses triangulation techniques to determine the horizontal and vertical position, as well as the velocity of the golf ball.

The computer can also determine the spin of the golf ball and cause an image of the golf ball as it would have appeared traveling away from the golfer had it not encountered the screen to be displayed on the screen.
[0005] U.S. Patent No. 5,443,260 to Stewart et al. discloses a baseball training and amusement apparatus that detects the speed and projected flight of a batted baseball. The apparatus includes a ball delivery device, a pair of detection planes, a computer and a video and simulation monitor. The detection planes are parallel to one another and are spaced apart by a distance such that a batted ball passing through the detection planes would be a fair ball in a real baseball game. Each detection plane includes a rigid frame that supports a pair of optical scanners and a pair of light sources. The optical scanners and light sources are positioned at opposite top corners of the rigid frame and are aimed downwardly into the region encompassed by the frame.
[0006] During use, the ball delivery apparatus delivers a baseball towards a player positioned in front of the detection planes. When the player strikes the baseball with a bat and the baseball travels through the detection planes, the optical scanners capture images of the baseball. The images are processed to determine the coordinates of the baseball as it passes through each of the detection planes as well as the velocity of the baseball. A simulated trajectory of the baseball is then calculated using the determined coordinate and velocity information. The simulated trajectory information is used to update the graphical images presented on the monitor so that the simulated flight of the batted baseball is displayed to the player thereby to simulate a batting experience.
[0007] U.S. Patent No. 5,649,706 to Treat, Jr. et al. discloses a hunting simulator for in-flight detection of a launched missile such as an arrow. The hunting simulator includes a screen and a projector for projecting a moving target on the screen. Electromagnetic radiation emitters are positioned in front of the screen adjacent its opposite top corners and illuminate a plane in front of the screen. Sensors are also positioned adjacent the opposite top corners of the screen and are responsive to the electromagnetic radiation emitters. Retroreflective tape extends along opposite sides of the plane.

[0008] During use, when an arrow is launched at the screen and passes through the plane, the sensors detect the presence of the arrow and generate output.
The output of the sensors is used to determine the coordinates of the arrow as well as the velocity of the arrow. A simulated trajectory of the arrow is then calculated and the graphical images presented on the screen are updated accordingly to reflect the flight of the launched arrow. In this manner, a hunting experience is simulated.
[0009] U.S. Patent No. 5,768,151 to Lowy et al. discloses a system for determining the trajectory of an object in a sports simulator. The system includes a baseball throwing device to deliver a baseball towards a player area. A
projector adjacent the player area presents images on a display screen that is positioned near the ball throwing device and in front of a batter. Video cameras are positioned in front of and on opposite sides of the anticipated trajectory of a hit baseball.
[0010] During use when a baseball delivered by the ball throwing device is hit by the batter and passes through the fields of the view of the video cameras, images of the baseball are captured and a streak showing the path of the baseball through the fields of view is determined. The streak is used to simulate the flight of the baseball and to update the image presented on the display screen thereby to simulate a batting experience.
[0011] Although the above references show sports simulation systems that capture images of launched projectiles and use the image data to simulate the flights of the launched projectiles, these sports simulation systems fail to provide "true to life" sports experiences as a result of the mechanisms used to track the path of the launched projectiles. As will be appreciated, improved sports simulation systems that provide better and more realistic sports experiences are desired.
[0012] It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a novel sports simulation system and a novel projectile tracking apparatus.
Summary of the Invention [0013] Accordingly in one aspect there is provided a sports simulation system comprising:
a projectile tracking apparatus comprising a display surface on which a sports scene is presented, and at least one pair of camera devices capturing images of a projectile tracking region disposed in front of said display surface to detect a

4 launched projectile traveling through said projectile tracking region towards said display surface, said projectile tracking region extending from said display surface to a launch region spaced forward of said display surface in which contact with said projectile is made using a sports implement to launch said projectile from said launch region towards said display surface;
an overhead launch area sensing unit positioned above and aimed generally straight down onto said launch region and capturing images of said launch region, said overhead launch area sensing unit comprising at least one camera capturing images of said launch region and at least one illuminator adjacent said at least one camera, said at least one illuminator illuminating said launch region from above, the illumination provided by said at least one illuminator being sufficient for image capture without negatively affecting visibility of the sports scene presented on said display surface; and at least one processing stage receiving image data from the camera devices and from said overhead launch area sensing unit and determining the three-dimensional positions, velocity, acceleration and spin of a detected launched projectile traveling from said launch region and through said projectile tracking region, the three-dimensional positions, velocity, acceleration and spin being used by said at least one processing stage to calculate a trajectory of said launched projectile into said sports scene, wherein during determination of the spin, said at least one processing stage processes the images captured by said overhead launch area sensing unit to determine a swing path of the sports implement before, during and after contact with said projectile and the launch angle of the projectile after contact with said sports implement and wherein said launch region is devoid of projectile and/or sports implement sensing components proximate the point of impact between the sports implement and the projectile.
100141 In one embodiment, the at least one processing stage uses the calculated trajectory to generate updated image data including a simulation of the launched projectile into the sports scene following the calculated trajectory.
A
projection device is coupled to the at least one processing stage. The projection device receives image data from the at least one processing stage and presents the sports scene including the simulation on the display surface.

[00151 In one embodiment, the projectile tracking apparatus includes a frame and at least one pair of camera devices mounted on the frame adjacent opposite top corners thereof. The camera devices have overlapping fields of view looking downwardly, across and in front of the display surface and capture images of the

5 projectile tracking region. Each camera device examines captured images to detect pixel clusters resembling a projectile characteristic signature thereby to detect the projectile in the captured images.
[0016] In one embodiment, the launch area sensing unit comprises at least one area-scan digital camera capturing images of the region in which contact with the projectile is made. The at least one area-scan camera is disposed above and looks down onto the region. One or more illuminators may be provided to provide suitable light for image capture. Images acquired by the at least one area-scan digital camera are processed by the at least one processing stage to detect the angle at which impact is made with the projectile allowing the spin of the projectile after impact and the projectile launch angle to be accurately determined. The images acquired by the at least one area-scan camera are processed on-board to determine if one or more moving objects are within the images and if so whether the one or more moving objects satisfy specified motion detection parameters. In this manner, only images containing information of interest are sent to the at least one processing stage.
[0017] According to another aspect there is provided a sports simulation system comprising:
a projectile tracking apparatus comprising a frame supporting a display surface on which a video sequence portraying a sports scene is presented; and at least two digital camera devices having fields of view looking across and in front of said display surface that overlap and encompass a projectile tracking region extending from a projectile launch region spaced forward of said display surface to said display surface, each of said digital camera devices including a first processor for processing image data and generating two-dimensional projectile coordinates when a projectile that has been launched as a result of an impact with a sports implement travels through said projectile tracking region and is captured in images acquired by said digital camera devices;
an overhead launch area sensing unit positioned above and aimed generally straight down onto said projectile launch region and capturing images of

6 said projectile launch region, said overhead launch area sensing unit comprising at least one camera capturing images of said launch region and at least one illuminator adjacent said at least one camera, said at least one illuminator illuminating said launch region from above, the illumination provided by said at least one illuminator being -- sufficient for image capture without negatively affecting visibility of the video sequence presented on said display surface;
a host processor communicating with said digital camera devices and said overhead launch area sensing unit, said host processor calculating a three-dimensional trajectory of said projectile taking into account projectile spin using the -- two-dimensional projectile coordinates received from each first processor and the image data output of said overhead launch area sensing unit and outputting image data including said calculated three-dimensional trajectory, wherein during determination of the spin, said at least one processing stage processes the images captured by said overhead launch area sensing unit to determine a swing path of the sports implement -- before, during and after contact with said projectile and the launch angle of the projectile after contact with said sports implement and wherein said launch region is devoid of projectile and/or sports implement sensing components proximate the point of impact between the sports implement and the projectile; and a display unit receiving said image data and presenting said video -- sequence on said display surface, said video sequence representing a simulation of the flight path of said sports projectile beginning from a contact location of said sports projectile with said display surface so that the simulation represents a realistic continuance of the travel of the sports projectile beyond the display surface.
100181 According to yet another aspect there is provided a golf simulation -- system comprising:
at least two digital camera devices having overlapping fields of view looking across and in front of a display surface;
an overhead launch area sensing unit positioned above and aimed generally straight down onto a launch region positioned a distance in front of said -- display surface in which contact with a golf ball is made using a golf club and capturing images of said launch region, said overhead launch area sensing unit comprising at least one camera capturing images of said launch region and at least one 6a illuminator adjacent said at least one camera, said at least one illuminator illuminating said launch region from above;
at least one processing stage processing image data received from the camera devices and said overhead launch area sensing unit and determining the three-dimensional positions, velocity, acceleration and spin of a detected launched golf ball traveling from its launch point to said display surface, the three-dimensional positions, velocity, acceleration and spin being used by said at least one processing stage to calculate a trajectory of said launched golf ball into a golf scene projected onto said display surface, wherein during determination of the spin, said at least one processing stage processes the images captured by said overhead launch area sensing unit to determine the swing path of the golf club before, during and after contact with said golf ball, the launch angle of the golf ball after contact with said golf club, and the degree by which the head of the golf club is open or closed at the point of impact with the golf ball and wherein said launch region is devoid of golf ball and/or golf club sensing components proximate the point of impact between the golf club and the golf ball; and a projection unit presenting said golf scene on said display surface including a simulation of said golf ball following said calculated trajectory, wherein the illumination provided by said at least one illuminator is sufficient for image capture without negatively affecting visibility of the golf scene presented on the display surface.
[0018a] According to still yet another aspect there is provided a golf simulator comprising:
a display surface on which a golf scene is presented;
a launch region spaced a distance from said display surface to define a golf ball travel region between said launch region and said display surface and configured to permit a user to launch a golf ball therefrom that travels through said golf ball travel region and impacts said display surface;
a launch area sensing unit comprising:
a housing configured to be mounted generally directly above said launch region;
at least one camera mounted on said housing and capturing images of said launch region from generally directly above; and 6b at least one illuminator mounted on said housing adjacent said at least one camera, said at least one illuminator illuminating said launch region from above; and at least one processor communicating with the launch area sensing unit and modifying the sports scene presented on said display surface in accordance with the trajectory of the golf ball launched at said display surface, wherein said launch region is devoid of golf ball and/or golf club sensing components proximate the point of impact between the golf club and the golf ball.
[0019] The sports simulation system provides advantages in that since the positions, velocity, acceleration, spin and launch angle of the launched projectile are determined, the flight of the launched projectile can be realistically simulated. This of course results in a more enjoyable sports experience. The sports simulation system also provides advantages in that virtually any type of projectile may be tracked avoiding the need for a specialized projectile. In addition, the projectile may be launched at the projectile tracking apparatus from a variety of positions providing greater flexibility and enhancing the sports experience.
Brief Description of the Drawings [0020] An embodiment will now be described more fully with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
Figure 1 is a perspective of a sports simulation system in accordance with the present invention;
Figure 2 is a side elevation view of the sports simulation system of Figure 1;
Figure 3 is a top plan view of the sports simulation system of Figure 1;
Figure 4 is a front elevation view of a projectile tracking apparatus forming part of the sports simulation system of Figure 1;

-7-Figure 5 is an enlarged front elevation view, partly in section, of a portion of the projectile tracking apparatus of Figure 4 showing a digital camera;
Figure 6 is a side schematic view of a projectile launch area sensing unit forming part of the sports simulation system of Figure 1;
Figures 7 and 8 are flowcharts showing steps performed during player interaction with the sports simulation system of Figure 1; and Figure 9 is an overhead view of a golf club making an impact with a golf ball within a projectile launch area of the sports simulation system of Figure 1.
Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiment [0021] Turning now to Figure 1, a sports simulation system is shown and is generally identified by reference numeral 100. As can be seen, sports simulation system 100 includes a projectile tracking apparatus 102 disposed in front of a projectile launch area A in which a player P stands. A projectile launch area sensing unit 103 is disposed above the launch area A. A host computer 104 is coupled to the projectile tracking apparatus 102 and to the projectile launch area sensing unit 103 via a high-speed serial data link and to a ceiling mounted front video projector 106 that is aimed at the projectile tracking apparatus 102. The host computer 104 outputs video image data to the projector 106, which in turn projects a video sequence on the projectile tracking apparatus 102. The video sequence portrays a visually apparent three-dimensional sports scene including a target T at which a projectile is to be launched. In this embodiment, the sports simulation system 100 simulates golf and thus, the three-dimensional sports scene is golf related and includes an image of a golf course hole, practice range etc. The projectile to be launched at the projectile tracking apparatus of course is a golf ball GB.
[0022] The projectile tracking apparatus 102 outputs two-dimensional projectile position data to the host computer 104 when the launched golf ball GB
travels through a projectile tracking region monitored by the projectile tracking apparatus. The projectile launch area sensing unit 103 outputs image data representing the motion of the golf club through the launch area A before, during and after impact with the golf ball to host computer 104. The host computer 104 in turn processes the two-dimensional projectile position data and the projectile launch area

-8-sensing unit image data to determine the three-dimensional positions, launch velocity, acceleration, spin and launch angle of the golf ball so that the trajectory of the golf ball can be accurately calculated. The calculated trajectory is then used to determine a sports result and to update the image data conveyed to the projector 106 so that the presented video sequence shows a simulation of the golf ball travel into the visually apparent three-dimensional scene as well as the determined sports result. As a result, the projectile tracking apparatus 102, projectile launch area sensing unit 103, the host computer 104 and the projector 106 form a closed loop.
[0023] Figures 2 to 5 better illustrate the projectile tracking apparatus 102. As can be seen, the projectile tracking apparatus 102 includes an upright, inverted U-shaped frame 110 having a pair of side posts 112 and a crossbar 114 extending between the upper ends of the posts 112. A screen 122 is supported by the frame 110.
In this embodiment, the screen 122 has a 4:3 aspect ratio making it particularly suited for displaying conventional television images. Those of skill in the art will however, appreciate that other image formats can be used. The screen 122 is loosely fastened to the back of the frame 110 at spaced locations.
[0024] The screen 122 includes multiple layers and is designed to reduce projectile bounce as well as enhance protection behind the screen. The first or front layer of the screen 122 is formed of highly reflective nylon having some elasticity to resist permanent stretching/pocketing and abrasion. As a result, the front layer provides an excellent display surface 124 on which images projected by the projector 106 are presented. The second or intermediate layer of the screen 122 is formed of soft and thick material and is designed to absorb projectile energy with reduced elastic effect thereby to inhibit stretching and or damage to the front layer. The third or back layer of the screen 122 is formed of a tough heavy canvas to which the intermediate layer can transfer energy. The back layer also inhibits excess deformation of the intermediate layer when contacted by a launched projectile. As a result, if the projectile tracking apparatus 102 is placed adjacent a wall surface or the like, the back layer protects the surface behind the screen 122 from projectile strike thereby to inhibit damage to the surface and/or significant projectile rebound. If a space is provided behind the projectile tracking apparatus 102, the back layer provides ample protection for the space.

-9-[0025] A pair of high speed digital cameras 128 is accommodated within the frame 110 with each camera being positioned adjacent a different top corner of the frame. Thus, the digital cameras 128 are positioned in front of the player and to the left side and right side of the anticipated projectile path. The digital cameras 128 are also angled to point downwardly and towards the player position so that the fields of view of the cameras are generally perpendicular and overlap in a region extending from the projectile launch point to the screen 122. In this manner, the path of the projectile can be tracked from its launch point until it impacts the screen and then as it rebounds from the screen 122.
[0026] In this embodiment, each digital camera 128 has at least a 640 by pixel array and includes built-in processing capabilities comprising field programmable gate arrays, a high performance 32-bit microprocessor and high speed memory. The distributed processing capabilities achieved by using the digital cameras 128 and the host computer 104 allow the digital cameras to be operated at very high frame rates thereby allowing multiple images of a fast moving projectile to be captured as it travels through the projectile tracking region 120. This is due to the fact that the digital cameras 128 need only send data to the host computer 104 relating to images in which projectile motion has been detected allowing high speed projectiles to be tracked without excessive bandwidth between the host computer 104 and the digital cameras 128 being needed. For example, in the case of a projectile travelling through the projectile tracking region 120 at a speed of 200 miles per hour, the frame rates of the digital cameras 128 are selected such that at least four images of the projectile are captured by each digital camera 128. The viewing angles of the digital cameras 128 and the dimensions of the frame 110 are selected to provide the digital cameras 128 with a resolving accuracy of approximately lmm per pixel.
As a result, a small projectile such as a golf ball will activate approximately 12 pixels per image. This resolving accuracy enables even small, very fast moving launched projectiles to be readily determined in captured images and as a result, reduces false projectile detection.
[0027] The on-board processors of the digital cameras 128 execute a motion detection routine to determine if a projectile exists in the captured images and if so, whether the projectile satisfies specified motion detection parameters defining a

-10-projectile characteristic signature. The projectile characteristic signature is used to ensure the detected projectile has characteristics matching the projectile in question, in this case, a struck golf ball. The projectile can therefore be distinguished from other objects captured in the images such as for example, the golf club head.
In this example, the projectile characteristic signature specifies allowable projectile size, shape, reflectivity and speed.
100281 Infrared (IR) light emitting diode (LED) arrays (not shown) are also positioned within the posts 112 beside the digital cameras 128. The illumination axes of the IR LED arrays are generally coincident with the optical axes OA of the digital cameras. Each IR LED array emits IR radiation that is directed into the projectile tracking region 120. As the digital cameras 128 are responsive to both visible and infrared light, providing the background IR illumination allows the projectile tracking apparatus 102 to work well in a variety of ambient lighting conditions. In situations where a small fast moving projectile is launched, the IR illumination allows for detection of the projectile without interfering with the visual quality of the displayed image presented on the screen 122.
100291 Audio speakers 140 are provided on the posts 112 and are aimed forwardly toward the launch area A. The audio speakers 140 are driven by an audio amplifier (not shown) accommodated within the frame 110. The audio amplifier receives audio input from the host computer 104 during play that is conveyed to the audio speakers 140 for broadcast thereby to enhance the sports experience.
100301 The projectile launch area sensing unit 103 is disposed directly over the launch area A and comprises an area-scan digital camera 160, a forty-five (45) degree mirror 162, a plurality of illuminators 164 in the form of halogen spotlights and a power supply (not shown) for the spotlights 164. The spotlights 164 are aimed to provide sufficient illumination in the launch area A to permit image capture without adversely affecting visibility of the image projected on the screen 122. The area-scan digital camera 160 is ceiling mounted horizontally approximately ten (10) feet above the launch area A. The optical axis of the digital camera 160 is in line with the center of the mirror 162 so that the field of view of the area-scan digital camera is re-directed downwardly over the center of the launch area A. In this embodiment, the

-11-field of view of the area-scan digital camera 160 encompasses a three (3) foot by three (3) foot region.
[0031] Similar to the digital cameras 128 in the projectile tracking apparatus 102, the area-scan digital camera 160 includes an on-board processor that executes a motion detection routine. During execution of the motion detection routine, as images are captured by the area-scan digital camera 160, the images are examined to determine if one or more moving objects exist therein that satisfy specified motion parameters. In this example, the motion parameters are selected to allow the on-board processor to detect when either a moving golf club and golf ball or both is in captured images. Captured images including one or more moving objects satisfying the specified motion parameters are sent to the host computer 104 for further processing.
[0032] The projector 106 preferably has a resolution of at least 800x600, at least 1200 ANSI Lumens brightness, a short throw lens, vertical 'keystone' correction, and the capacity to accept digital RGB computer video signals, and NTSC/PAL baseband television video signals. Projectors having this set of features include the Epson Powerlite 820P, the Toshiba TDP-DI-US, the InFocus LP650 and the Sanyo XP30 for example.
[0033] The host computer 104 is preferably an IBM compatible personal computer including an Intel Pentium processor, at least 128 MB SDRAM, a high-speed hard drive, and a DVD player. The host computer 104 also includes a display adapter assembly including a reconfigurable 32-bit video memory buffer partitioned into three separate buffers. One of the buffers is used to store primary foreground image data representing one or more independent foreground action elements if appropriate for the sports scene being displayed. A second of the buffers is used to store background image data and the third buffer is used to store projectile trajectory image data. The display adapter assembly treats the foreground action, background and projectile trajectory image data as overlay image planes that are combined seamlessly to generate the video image data that is output to the projector 106. The overlay image planes are non-destructive so that when a foreground action element and/or projectile moves over an underlying image plane it is not necessary to redraw the underlying image plane. To reduce peak processing requirements, the host computer 104 updates the background image data less frequently than the foreground

-12-image data. The host computer 104 provides the output video image data to the projector 106 on a video output channel. The host computer 104 receives external video feeds on a television/satellite/cable input channel, a video game input channel and an Internet input channel.
[0034] The host computer 104 is mounted within a protective enclosure (not shown) having external connectors to enable the computer to be coupled to the projector 106, the projectile tracking apparatus 102 and the projectile launch area sensing unit 103. The enclosure also includes external connectors to allow the host computer 104 to receive the television/satellite/cable, external video game and Internet feeds. Input controls are also provided on the enclosure to allow a player to interact with the host computer 104.
[0035] A high speed digital serial interface such as 1EEE1394 is used between the host computer 104, the projectile tracking apparatus 102 and the projectile launch area sensing unit 103. Using this standard interface provides a low cost, high performance solution while avoiding use of expensive analog frame grabbers.
The interface also simplifies wiring as the cameras 128 can be daisy-chained without loss of signal integrity.
[0036] The host computer 104 executes sports simulation software stored in the SDRAM. In this example, the sports simulation software includes a golf simulation module that requires a player to hit the golf ball GB at the projectile tracking apparatus 102 in response to the video sequence displayed on the screen 122.
[0037] To provide a realistic playing experience, a high resolution elevation map of the golf course terrain is used. The course terrain elevation map is constructed from a combination of two-dimensional images that include overhead satellite and/or aerial photographs used in conjunction with digital photographs taken from ground level. Using photogrammetry techniques, these orthogonal views are combined together. Using common points in the images i.e. edges of sand hazards, trees etc., a three-dimensional model is synthesized without requiring reference targets to be applied to the terrain of interest.
[0038] During training, practice or game play, the host computer 104 outputs video image data to the projector 106 causing the projector 106 to project a video sequence portraying a visually apparent three-dimensional sports scene on the display

-13-surface 124 that includes a target at which the projectile is to be launched (see step 500 in Figure 7). The host computer 104 also conditions the digital cameras 128 to capture a background image of the projectile tracking region 120 devoid of a projectile (step 502) and then scan the projectile tracking region to look for the presence of a launched projectile at a very high frame rate (step 504). The player is then prompted to launch the golf ball GB at the screen 122 (step 506).
[0039] At this stage, the digital cameras 128 continually capture and process images to detect the existence of a projectile. When the player launches the projectile at the projectile tracking apparatus 102 by striking the golf ball with a golf club and the projectile enters the projectile tracking region 120, the projectile appears in the images captured by the digital cameras 128. Thus, the digital cameras 128 synchronously capture a series of images of the projectile as it travels through the projectile tracking region 120 (step 508). The captured images are in turn processed by the on-board processors of the digital cameras 128 to determine if the captured images include a detected projectile satisfying the projectile characteristic signature.
[0040] If the detected projectile satisfies the projectile characteristic signature, the images are further processed to determine the center of mass of the projectile in each image and its position in rectangular coordinates. As a result, a series of two-dimensional rectangular coordinates representing the two-dimensional positions of the projectile as it travels through the projectile tracking region 120 relative to each digital camera 128 is generated. The two-dimensional rectangular coordinates generated by the digital cameras 128 are in turn conveyed to the host computer 104.
[0041] At the same time, the area-scan digital camera 160 of the projectile launch area sensing unit 103 continually captures and processes images to look for the existence of a swinging golf club passing through the launch area A and the launched golf ball exiting the launch area A. When a swinging golf club and launched golf ball are detected, the area-scan digital camera 160 outputs the captured images to the host computer 104.
[0042] Upon receipt of the projectile coordinates from the projectile tracking apparatus 102, the host computer 104 calculates the positions of the projectile's center of mass in three-dimensional space throughout its travel through the projectile tracking region 120 including its collision and rebound with the screen 122 using

-14-triangulation techniques (see step 520 in Figure 8). With the position of the projectile in three-dimensional space known during its travel through the projectile tracking region 120 and knowing the frame rates of the digital cameras 128, the host computer 104 calculates the launch velocity of the projectile and the velocity of the projectile over each image frame (step 522). The host computer 104 then compares each calculated velocity with the previously calculated velocity to determine the acceleration of the projectile (step 524).
[0043] Upon receipt of the image data from the projectile launch area sensing unit 103, the host computer 104 analyzes the club head swing path 200 (see Figure 9) to determine where the club head hits the golf ball GB and to determine the initial golf ball trajectory or launch angle after being hit. The host computer 104 also defines a club head motion vector 202 as the tangent line along the club head swing path 200.
By estimating the initial golf ball trajectory, a golf ball motion vector 206 is measured. Using this vector, a club face vector 208 can be determined as the line perpendicular to the tangent 210 of the club face at the impact point of the golf ball and the club face. By comparing the club head motion vector 202 and the club face vector 208, a determination can be made as to whether the club face is open or closed upon impact with the golf ball. The degree to which the club head motion vector 202 is not parallel to the club face vector 208 at the point of impact determines the amount of side spin that the golf ball will have. This enables the host computer 104 to calculate the spin of the golf ball based on the angle of the club face at the point of contact with the golf ball as well as on the impact and rebound angles of the projectile with and from the screen 122 (also step 524).
[0044] With the three-dimensional positions, launch velocity, acceleration, spin and launch angle of the projectile known, the host computer 104 extrapolates an accurate trajectory for the projectile allowing a realistic simulation of curved and/or arcing projectiles to be generated (step 526). The computed projectile trajectory is then used to determine a sports result by computing the intersection of the calculated projectile trajectory with the displayed video image (step 528). With the projectile trajectory computed and the sports result determined, the host computer 104 updates the image data that is conveyed to the projector 106 so that the video sequence displayed on the display surface 124 of the screen 122 shows the simulated flight of the projectile and the sports result (step 530).
[0045] During video sequence display, when a simulation of the projectile flight is shown a graphical duplicate of the projectile is projected onto the display 5 surface 124 of the screen 122 that begins its flight from the impact point of the projectile with the screen 122. In this manner, the projectile appears to continue its trajectory into the video scene thereby to achieve a realistic video effect.
The three-dimensional scene is then updated in accordance with the sports result, allowing game play or practice to continue.
10 [0046] Although the sports simulation system 100 has been described as including a ceiling mounted front projector 106 in combination with a screen 122, those of skill in the art will appreciate that alternative projection devices may be used.
For example, a rear video projector may be used to project images onto the rear surface of the display screen 122.

15 [0047] Those of skill in the art will appreciate that the projectile tracking apparatus 102 may include additional cameras at different locations to view the projectile tracking region and detect the existence of a launched projectile.
Those of skill in the art will also appreciate that the number of processing stages may be increased or decreased as desired to handle processing of the digital camera image data effectively in real-time and provide a realistic projectile simulation.
[0048] If desired, the projectile launch area sensing unit 103 may include additional cameras. The projectile launch area sensing unit may include any number of illuminators or none at all if the ambient light conditions are sufficient to provide for adequate image capture.
[0049] While the sports simulation system is described as simulating golf, it will be appreciated that the sports simulation system may be used to simulate other sports where a projectile is launched. In such cases, the projectile characteristic signatures are updated to enable launched projectiles to be accurately tracked.
[0050] Although a preferred embodiment of the present invention has been described, those of skill in the art will appreciate that variations and modifications may be made without departing from the scope thereof as defined by the appended claims.

Claims (36)

What is claimed is:
1. A sports simulation system comprising:
a projectile tracking apparatus comprising a display surface on which a sports scene is presented, and at least one pair of camera devices capturing images of a projectile tracking region disposed in front of said display surface to detect a launched projectile traveling through said projectile tracking region towards said display surface, said projectile tracking region extending from said display surface to a launch region spaced forward of said display surface in which contact with said projectile is made using a sports implement to launch said projectile from said launch region towards said display surface;
an overhead launch area sensing unit positioned above and aimed generally straight down onto said launch region and capturing images of said launch region, said overhead launch area sensing unit comprising at least one camera capturing images of said launch region and at least one illuminator adjacent said at least one camera, said at least one illuminator illuminating said launch region from above, the illumination provided by said at least one illuminator being sufficient for image capture without negatively affecting visibility of the sports scene presented on said display surface; and at least one processing stage receiving image data from the camera devices and from said overhead launch area sensing unit and determining the three-dimensional positions, velocity, acceleration and spin of a detected launched projectile traveling from said launch region and through said projectile tracking region, the three-dimensional positions, velocity, acceleration and spin being used by said at least one processing stage to calculate a trajectory of said launched projectile into said sports scene, wherein during determination of the spin, said at least one processing stage processes the images captured by said overhead launch area sensing unit to determine a swing path of the sports implement before, during and after contact with said projectile and the launch angle of the projectile after contact with said sports implement and wherein said launch region is devoid of projectile and/or sports implement sensing components proximate the point of impact between the sports implement and the projectile.
2. A sports simulation system according to claim 1 wherein said at least one processing stage uses said calculated trajectory to generate updated image data representing a simulation of the flight path of said launched projectile beginning at said display surface and traveling into said sports scene following said calculated trajectory.
3. A sports simulation system according to claim 2 further comprising a projection device coupled to said at least one processing stage, said projection device receiving image data from said at least one processing stage and presenting said sports scene including said simulation on said display surface.
4. A sports simulation system according to claim 3 wherein said projectile tracking apparatus comprises a frame generally surrounding said display surface, said camera devices having overlapping fields of view looking across and in front of said display surface and capturing images of said projectile tracking region.
5. A sports simulation system according to claim 4 wherein said camera devices have generally perpendicular fields of view looking downwardly, across and in front of said display surface.
6. A sports simulation system according to any one of claims 1 to 5 wherein each camera device examines captured images to detect pixel clusters resembling a projectile characteristic signature thereby to detect said projectile in said captured images and to distinguish said projectile from other objects in said captured images.
7. A sports simulation system according to claim 6 wherein said projectile characteristic signature defines one or more of projectile size, shape, reflectivity and speed.
8. A sports simulation system according to any one of claims I to 7 further comprising an audio system to broadcast audio accompanying said simulation.
9. A sports simulation system according to any one of claims 1 to 8 wherein said at least one illuminator comprises a plurality of laterally spaced illuminators.
10. A sports simulation system according to claim 9 wherein said at least one camera comprises a single area-scan camera.
11. A sports simulation system according to claim 10 wherein said area-scan camera processes captured images to determine if one or more moving objects satisfying specified motion criteria are in the captured images, and if so outputs the captured images to said at least one processing stage.
12. A sports simulation system according to claim 10 or 11 wherein the optical axis of said area-scan camera is generally coincident with the center of said launch region.
13. A sports simulation system according to claim 12 wherein said area-scan camera is mounted in a generally horizontal orientation and wherein said launch area sensing unit further comprises a mirror to re-direct the field of view of said area-scan camera downwardly into said launch region.
14. A sports simulation system comprising:
a projectile tracking apparatus comprising a frame supporting a display surface on which a video sequence portraying a sports scene is presented; and at least two digital camera devices having fields of view looking across and in front of said display surface that overlap and encompass a projectile tracking region extending from a projectile launch region spaced forward of said display surface to said display surface, each of said digital camera devices including a first processor for processing image data and generating two-dimensional projectile coordinates when a projectile that has been launched as a result of an impact with a sports implement travels through said projectile tracking region and is captured in images acquired by said digital camera devices;

an overhead launch area sensing unit positioned above and aimed generally straight down onto said projectile launch region and capturing images of said projectile launch region, said overhead launch area sensing unit comprising at least one camera capturing images of said launch region and at least one illuminator adjacent said at least one camera, said at least one illuminator illuminating said launch region from above, the illumination provided by said at least one illuminator being sufficient for image capture without negatively affecting visibility of the video sequence presented on said display surface;
a host processor communicating with said digital camera devices and said overhead launch area sensing unit, said host processor calculating a three-dimensional trajectory of said projectile taking into account projectile spin using the two-dimensional projectile coordinates received from each first processor and the image data output of said overhead launch area sensing unit and outputting image data including said calculated three-dimensional trajectory, wherein during determination of the spin, said at least one processing stage processes the images captured by said overhead launch area sensing unit to determine a swing path of the sports implement before, during and after contact with said projectile and the launch angle of the projectile after contact with said sports implement and wherein said launch region is devoid of projectile and/or sports implement sensing components proximate the point of impact between the sports implement and the projectile; and a display unit receiving said image data and presenting said video sequence on said display surface, said video sequence representing a simulation of the flight path of said sports projectile beginning from a contact location of said sports projectile with said display surface so that the simulation represents a realistic continuance of the travel of the sports projectile beyond the display surface.
15. A sports simulation system according to claim 14 wherein each said first processor examines captured images to detect pixel clusters resembling a projectile characteristic signature thereby to detect said projectile in said captured images and to distinguish the projectile from other objects in said captured images.
16. A sports simulation system according to claim 15 wherein said projectile characteristic signature defines one or more of projectile size, shape, reflectivity and speed.
17. A sports simulation system according to any one of claims 14 to 16 wherein said frame encompasses a rectangular region and wherein said digital camera devices are positioned at opposite top corners of said frame.
18. A sports simulation system according to any one of claims 14 to 17 wherein said at least one illuminator comprises a plurality of laterally spaced illuminators.
19. A sports simulation system according to claim 18 wherein said at least one camera comprises a single area-scan camera.
20. A sports simulation system according to claim 19 wherein said area-scan camera processes captured images to determine if one or more moving objects satisfying specified motion criteria are in the captured images, and if so outputs the captured images to said host processor.
21. A sports simulation system according to claim 19 or 20 wherein the optical axis of said area-scan camera is generally coincident with the center of said launch region.
22. A sports simulation system according to claim 21 wherein said area-scan camera is mounted in a generally horizontal orientation and wherein said launch area sensing unit further comprises a mirror to re-direct the field of view of said area-scan camera downwardly into said launch region.
23. A golf simulation system comprising:
at least two digital camera devices having overlapping fields of view looking across and in front of a display surface;

an overhead launch area sensing unit positioned above and aimed generally straight down onto a launch region positioned a distance in front of said display surface in which contact with a golf ball is made using a golf club and capturing images of said launch region, said overhead launch area sensing unit comprising at least one camera capturing images of said launch region and at least one illuminator adjacent said at least one camera, said at least one illuminator illuminating said launch region from above;
at least one processing stage processing image data received from the camera devices and said overhead launch area sensing unit and determining the three-dimensional positions, velocity, acceleration and spin of a detected launched golf ball traveling from its launch point to said display surface, the three-dimensional positions, velocity, acceleration and spin being used by said at least one processing stage to calculate a trajectory of said launched golf ball into a golf scene projected onto said display surface, wherein during determination of the spin, said at least one processing stage processes the images captured by said overhead launch area sensing unit to determine the swing path of the golf club before, during and after contact with said golf ball, the launch angle of the golf ball after contact with said golf club, and the degree by which the head of the golf club is open or closed at the point of impact with the golf ball and wherein said launch region is devoid of golf ball and/or golf club sensing components proximate the point of impact between the golf club and the golf ball; and a projection unit presenting said golf scene on said display surface including a simulation of said golf ball following said calculated trajectory, wherein the illumination provided by said at least one illuminator is sufficient for image capture without negatively affecting visibility of the golf scene presented on the display surface.
24. A golf simulation system according to claim 23 wherein said at least one illuminator comprises a plurality of laterally spaced illuminators.
25. A golf simulation system according to claim 24 wherein said at least one camera comprises a single area-scan camera.
26. A golf simulation system according to claim 25 wherein said area-scan camera processes captured images to determine if one or more moving objects satisfying specified motion criteria are in the captured images, and if so outputs the captured images to said at least one processing stage.
27. A golf simulation system according to claim 25 or 26 wherein the optical axis of said area-scan camera is generally coincident with the center of said launch region.
28. A golf simulation system according to claim 27 wherein said area-scan camera is mounted in a generally horizontal orientation and wherein said launch area sensing unit further comprises a mirror to re-direct the field of view of said area-scan camera downwardly into said launch region.
29. A golf simulation system according to any one of claims 23 to 28 wherein said at least one processing stage compares a club head motion vector with a club face vector to detect the degree by which the head of the golf club is open or closed.
30. A golf simulation system according to claim 29 wherein said at least one processing stage determines the tangent of the swing path at the point of impact to calculate said club head motion vector and determines a line perpendicular to the tangent of the face of the golf club at the point of impact to calculate the club face vector.
31. A golf simulator comprising:
a display surface on which a golf scene is presented;
a launch region spaced a distance from said display surface to define a golf ball travel region between said launch region and said display surface and configured to permit a user to launch a golf ball therefrom that travels through said golf ball travel region and impacts said display surface;
a launch area sensing unit comprising:

a housing configured to be mounted generally directly above said launch region;
at least one camera mounted on said housing and capturing images of said launch region from generally directly above; and at least one illuminator mounted on said housing adjacent said at least one camera, said at least one illuminator illuminating said launch region from above; and at least one processor communicating with the launch area sensing unit and modifying the sports scene presented on said display surface in accordance with the trajectory of the golf ball launched at said display surface, wherein said launch region is devoid of golf ball and/or golf club sensing components proximate the point of impact between the golf club and the golf ball.
32. A golf simulator according to claim 31 wherein said at least one illuminator comprises a plurality of laterally spaced illuminators mounted on said housing.
33. A golf simulator according to claim 32 wherein said at least one camera comprises a single area-scan camera.
34. A golf simulator according to claim 33 wherein said area-scan camera processes captured images to determine if one or more moving objects satisfying specified motion criteria are in the captured images, and if so outputs the captured images to said at least one processor.
35. A golf simulator according to claim 33 or 34 wherein the optical axis of said area-scan camera is generally coincident with the center of said launch region.
36. A golf simulator according to any one of claims 33 to 35 wherein said area-scan camera is mounted in a generally horizontal orientation and wherein said launch area sensing unit further comprises a mirror to re-direct the field of view of said area-scan camera downwardly into said launch region.
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