Infrared imaging at the Super Bowl

Considering the amount of cameras that will be present at this Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks; it wasn’t too difficult to find a vision-related connection. In this case, though, the connection is a bit “out of the box,” as FOX will apparently use a thermal imaging camera to show fans how warms or cold players are, based on captured infrared images.

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Considering the amount of cameras that will be present at this Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks; it wasn’t too difficult to find a vision-related connection. In this case, though, the connection is a bit “out of the box,” as FOX will apparently use a thermal imaging camera to show fans how warms or cold players are, based on captured infrared images.

The camera used for this will be a FLIR infrared imaging camera, which will capture images of players on both sides throughout the game. FLIR provides a few tips on interpreting the thermal images, noting that areas that appear to be “hot” on an athlete’s body related directly to the amount of the body not covered by clothing or padding, and any area where ski is exposed will appear “hotter” than an area covered with clothing or padding.

It also says that any areas where the jersey clings tightly to the body, such as a lineman’s belly, will appear warmer than areas where padding separate body heat from the athlete’s uniform. The FLIR camera will provide better visibility than a typical camera, should the game encounter any environmental hindrances, which is a possibility, considering that the game will be played outdoors in New Jersey.

Realistically, I think that when it comes to using a thermal imaging camera for the game, the angle is that this particular Super Bowl is the first to be played outdoors in a cold weather environment. Yes, it is going to be a spectacle to see Russell Wilson or Peyton Manning (if he isn’t wearing one of those orange and blue gloves on his right hand), leave a thermal imprint on a football and watch the warmth dissipate quickly as it travels through the air.

But really, what is being accomplished? There are a multitude of novel and significant uses for thermal imaging cameras in day-to-day life, but in this case, it’s nothing more than a bit of "fun." In fact, Eric Shanks, Fox Sports chief operating officer and executive producer, went as far as telling the Television Critics Association that he "doesn’t know what the story tells, but it might make for some pretty cool pictures."

To that, I would have to say that I agree.

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